5.5/10 Adapted from August Wilson’s stage play, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” falls short of the previous Wilson film adaption, “Fences”, which came out four years ago. One problem both movies have is that the stage serves as a much better medium for these kinds of stories than a celluloid screen. By transferring the medium of stage play to film, nothing is really gained in these dialogue heavy adaptations. Both have Denzel Washington behind them (he directed “Fences” and produced this) and star Viola Davis. One positive thing both movies have in common is the incredible acting. Here we have Chadwick Boseman in his final role and the aforementioned Viola Davis and both are guaranteed to get Academy Award nominations for their work here. It is too early to tell if they would win but their nominations will both be well deserved as they put in powerhouse performances. The production design and recreation of 1927 are fantastic with the era appropriate costumes, cars, props, sets, etc. Even the sound design while music is being recorded sounds perfectly era specific and accurate. The production design and mise en scène are fantastic and the overall acting is truly what this movie showcases, as even the supporting actors are terrific. Despite those elements that work, the story didn’t do a whole lot for me and the two leads, although amazingly acted, are such grating characters that we don’t care to root for. When your protagonists are selfish and unlikable, it makes it a chore to spend an hour and a half with them and listen to them complain and treat others poorly. Some of the dialogue was powerful but other times it dragged on, boring me as I waited for something exciting to happen. Ma Rainey has her sexuality hinted at with being a lesbian for about one minute and then it is never brought up again, making it feel completely unnecessary to even allude to her sexuality in the first place, since it has nothing to do with the movie or the overall plot. Despite its rather brief running time, the movie drags in places with not a lot happening. Some subplots are started and then quickly abandoned, like a romantic subplot with Boseman’s character and Taylour Paige’s character, which made it feel like its inclusion was more to pad the running time than anything else. In the end, the acting is still phenomenal and the production elements are masterful but a thin story with unlikable characters is much better suited for the stage than it is on a movie theater screen or on your TV set via Netflix.
#ThisMovieIsASlowDrag / #ChicagoStarPlayCutler / #CashOrMaRaineyCheck / #Blackfat / #21MusicalBridges / #ShoeInForActingNominations