Ethan Colburn’s review published on Letterboxd:
Life is hard without Chadwick Boseman.
It is really an honor to see him act in this movie, and very appropriate that his final performance might be his best.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was originally a play, which becomes apparent as you start watching it. Not only are the sets limited, but it takes place mostly in an afternoon and so much of it is about the stories the characters tell. The whole thing is just an acting clinic, with Viola's performance being particularly impressive. She becomes Ma Rainey in another spectacular entry in her career.
The music or lack thereof, drives the plot forward, and is gorgeous. I love hearing the early blues, and Davis' voice and charisma made her performances mesmerizing. I wish they were able to put in some more songs (though part of the tension was her being "difficult" and not recording).
It's a powerful story, with themes I haven't began to unpack. Without too many sets you can really begin to unpack the characters you're studying. It felt in ways like a Tennessee Williams play, I look forward to seeing more of August Wilson's works.
. . .
I forgot to comment on it in my last review but I just hit 250 reviews. Thank you for embracing me in this community! I had no idea I'd meet so many amazing people, and that people were actually interested in reading my thoughts. I love and appreciate you all so very much!