Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★½

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” sweats the beads of pure professional excellence from every pore. 

The film bursts with talent; equaled-out by assured practicians led by Viola Davis, and sparkling with the fire of discovery in the magnificent Chadwick Boseman. 

And while it is gloriously full of texture and light, “Ma”  doesn’t quite belong in its own medium. 

George C. Wolf is one of our greatest living American theatre directors. He has taken on unwieldy and high-concept behemoths of musicals (“Caroline or Change,” “Shuffle Along”) and plays (“Angels in America”) - and made them flow with complex perfection. 

George C. Wolf is however, not as much a veteran in the area of movies. “Ma” commits the usual sins born from films made by stage people; overt ‘monologue moments,’ and arrhythmic crosstalk abound. They’re  lesser among cinema transgressions, but when paired with the seasoned mastery of “Ma’s” cast - come off as particularly unbalanced. 

If you can sit and watch “Ma” imagining it unfolding in all its hot and heavy period glory on a (now-closed) Broadway stage — you might just find yourself utterly transported.

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