Adam’s review published on Letterboxd:
A film that doesn’t justify its being a film, which is disappointing because there are some powerful forces at play in here! There have been countless play to film adaptations, and many don’t break out of their theatric setting enough to work on screen. Unfortunately, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is one of those films. It never does quite enough to work effectively as a movie.
There’s not much for me to say about this film. It is sweaty and sweltering, which I like, and it sucks you in with some powerful monologues. The whole thing is a bit too shiny for me. I would have loved a grittier and more painful version of this story. Viola Davis dominates this side of things, especially in the first half. She makes me want something a bit less generally appealing. Something with a bit more bite, something that can match her performance.
And Chadwick Boseman. There’s nothing I can say that’s not been said before. He delivers his lines so emotionally and forcefully, but with an amazing control. It’s great stuff to watch and I wish the movie in the background of his performance wasn’t so lukewarm.