Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★½

There’s a lot to like here, beginning with outstanding turns from Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman (both of whom are deserving of serious Oscar consideration) and the dramatic power of August Wilson’s words. The music is snappy, and the production design and costume work create a slick period look. However, while Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is an actor’s showcase (and a sad reminder of what was lost with Boseman’s untimely passing), it does very little to distance itself from the fact that this was, first and foremost, a stage production. Sadly, director George C. Wolfe doesn’t do much to make this feel “cinematic,” instead opting for a more straightforward, filmed adaptation as it moves from one monologue to the next.

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