Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, an adaptation of August Wilson’s play, depicts Viola Davis as Ma Rainey, The Mother Of The Blues. The film takes place in 1927 at a recording studio where Ma and her band traveled to complete a new song. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, directed by George C. Wolfe, and produced by Denzel Washington, Todd Black, and Danny Wolf.
Viola Davis portrays the ballsy and domineering Ma Rainey. She is met with opposition from her manager and producer during a recording session. Ma Rainey strives and struggles to be recognized an industry and era dominated by her male counterparts. Nonetheless, she demands respect from everyone that she meets. It is her way or the highway.
Levee played by Chadwick Boseman is one of the band members dealing with deep-rooted emotions from the past. Lee has ambitions that clash with Ma and the band. He is the bitter thorn in her side undermining her creative musical style.
Here are three reasons why I enjoyed the film and one that I am challenged by.
1. Ma Rainey’s ability to control and command the atmosphere in a male-driven world.
Ma Rainey’s ability to control and command the atmosphere in a male-driven world showed her tenacity to demanding respect for her art and desire for equal treatment.
2. The intense moments between Levee, the band, and Ma ignited my emotions.
Some scenes went from pure gratification to ravenous rage that revealed the dark and deep-rooted past events that plagued Levee. He inflicted that anger on everyone.
3. The Blues tugged at my heart-strings.
The Blues referred to as the story of life’s up and downs and an extraordinary way to paint the scenes and events as they occurred. Ma Rainey belted multi-colored nuances with lyrical, melancholy, gritty, and feisty storylines.
4. Ma Rainey’s drive and fight for respect are still undermined in this film. The storyline focused more on the story of the band than Ma Rainey. The plight of Levee was pushed to the forefront. The struggle of being a woman in a male-dominated world made respect and recognition almost invisible.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a film packed with elements of an emotional rollercoaster. The struggles and deep-rooted rejection felt by Ma Rainey were evident from the onset of the film. It is a precise depiction of “The Blues”.