Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – In the Heart of Blues: Music Storytelling

To see is to feel; to listen is to escape.  The riveting ribbons of delight is an admiring thought that brings the heart of genuine tales.  No matter the genre, it is the subtle details that can turn simple storytelling into a spectacular feat.  In this review, I look at a Netflix original that blends culture and era.  With strong acting and riveting music, this film pushes you through the motions of a character piece.  Even with a slow start, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom captures the meaning of soul in the blues. 

In one fateful recording session, Ma Rainy (Viola Davis) clashes with her ambitious horn player Levee (Chadwick Boseman) and nervous management team to create the music for the Mother of Blues.  This film uses the foundation of character that envelopes into a period piece.  Being an adaptation of a stage play, the director drives the plot with heavy dialogue and individual performances.  Through the ‘slice of life’ technique, the audience drops into the lives of Ma Rainy and the band.  After a quick introduction, in 1927, they make their way to Chicago to record an album.  From this point, the thematic appeal of the period piece is fused through the dynamic of character relationships.  The layering of purpose is driven by circumstance, allowing an even flow of emotions through specific moments in the conversation.  The delicate balance of detail creates moments of endearment, showcasing the tension that arises in their music practice.  Through their conversations, you see how each person’s position in the band adds reasons to how they have struggled through life.  The ensemble cast provide standout performances, led by Davis and Boseman.  The unique bravado adds credence to their reasons (for pursing music), creating heartfelt attachments to their current struggles.  You get a sense of how their past drives how they deal with their position in the current social dynamic of America.  As things come to light, it leads to vocal confrontations that create tense and unpredictable moments.

As recording begins, Ma Rainy begins to clash with everyone in the band and management.  As the folly drives the situation, it brings out personal flaws to the heart of the music.  This, combine with the era (1920s), creates a place of strong conversational set pieces.  This delivers a balance of homely sensation with the overall social elements.  This leveling of the broad into the specifics heightens the experience, driving a riveting thread through the music.  Once in the final act, it leads to reflections that bleed through harsh circumstance.  This creates a climax of ultimate truths, showing how the past and present become one in the same.  Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is an adaption that captures the heart of character storytelling.  If you’re a fan of stage plays, music, period pieces or those involved, this is one for you.  It is available on Netflix, a truly award worthy experience.

Full Score – 4.5 out of 5 (Award Worthy)

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