By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
If Chadwick Boseman is nominated or wins an award posthumously this season, it won't be a sympathy vote, but rather for his fierce portrayal of Levee--which ignites the screen--in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."
Directed by George C. Wolfe
(TV's "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks") and produced by Denzel Washington and Todd Black ("Fences"), "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is an adaptation of August Wilson’s 1982 Tony Award-winning stage play. It debuts Dec. 18 on Netflix
and is a remarkable showcase for Boseman. He stars as a band member for the legendary blues singer Ma Rainey who is played to perfection by Academy Award winner Viola Davis
("Widows" and TV's "How to Get Away with Murder").
While Davis and Boseman are a dynamic duo, the film's supporting cast of Glynn Turman (TV's "Fargo"), Colman Domingo (TV's "Euphoria" and "Fear the Walking Dead"), Michael Potts (TV's "God Friended Me"), Taylour Paige ("White Boy Rick") and Dusan Brown ("42" and TV's "Blaze and the Monster Machines"), shouldn't go unnoticed either.
Prior to the release of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," N2Entertainment.net
attended a virtual interview session with George C. Wolfe and some of the cast. REEL MOVIE NEWS
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is set in Chicago (1927) and centers around a recording session with the flamboyant and sassy Ma Rainey. As soon as she walks in the studio her bandmates, trombonist Cutler (Domingo), Toledo the pianist (Turman) and bassist, Slow Drag (Potts) are ready to do whatever Ma says. Levee, (Boseman) is a different story.
The slick, motor-mouth trumpeter with the cool kicks and who keeps eyeing Ma's partner, Dussie Mae (Paige) wants to add some of his musical touches to one of Ma's songs. She's not down with that. Levee believes, he's a lot more talented than the rest of the guys and has more ambition. He doesn't want to just play music, but also write it and own it even if it means perhaps leaving Ma's group and branching out on his own.
There is always one.
Not only does Ma have to contend with Levee, but the cheapskate studio owner Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne, TV's "The Blacklist") and her annoying and lame manager Irvin (Jeremy Shamos, TV's "The Undoing") who also want control of her and her music. When Ma insists on having her stuttering nephew Sylvester (Brown) do part of a recording, it drives everyone crazy and is almost a disaster.
But because Ma Rainey is Ma Rainey, and is making money for the record company, she most always gets what she wants.
The majority of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" takes place in the basement recording studio and focuses on the men's jovial and sometimes heated exchanges about their life experiences including a blistering rant from Levee about his father growing up in the South. It helps us understand Levee's pain and suffering and his overall behavior.
There is such expressiveness and vibrancy from the cast of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" that you wish the movie never ends. Davis' portrayal of Ma Rainey--especially her lip-syncing--is truly remarkable.
It's also bittersweet to see Boseman who died this past August. His star turns in "Black Panther, "Get on Up," "42," and now "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," shows this incredibly talented young man was just getting started.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Check Out This Trailer For "MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics' Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.