Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★½

Very stage-like and too many monologues to really elevate it to greatness. Yet there are a lot of topics which are implemented quite naturally and apart from the monologues most of the film plays out as naturally as an adapted play can. I guess you can accuse the dialogue of being heavy handed but I thought the conflicts created themselves through a clash of personalities that revealed issues about class, generational differences, religion and general greed and desperation feeding each other that all have a common denominator in racial tension. The question of race is first introduced without a fuss by set design but it comes up more and more in conversations until it leads to a dreadful event within the band provoked by the actions of the producer.

Boseman and Davis get a good supporting group around their strong performances and the music is well-placed, not overused but very much present. There are intense, aggressive scenes where characters pour their heart out but whether it actually paints a whole picture about any of them is questionable. I'm talking as a white man but it seems to me that Wilson and Wolfe know what they're dealing with, the commentary is often piercing, so the film has a lot of value in that sense.

I've had a weird selection of movies today so I might rewatch something to finish the day off.

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