Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom review: the 20s Blues Soul of Chicago

George C. Wolfe's latest film carries you in another dimension, right to the core of Blues, with powerful and uncontrollable characters that entangle together.

Erika Armanino
8th February 2021
Image: IMDb
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a 2020 gripping drama that takes you back in time through the musical notes of Blues. It is assured that, by the time you will be done watching it, you will be searching online for some good old blues beats.

The colours and the costumes ensure that Ma Rainey is always in charge

The film, based on the eponymous play by August Wilson, portrays ‘The Mother of Blues’ (Viola Davis) and her band, formed by the piano player Toledo (Glynn Turman), the trombone player Cutler (Colman Domingo), the bass player in the band Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and the talented trumpeter Levee (Chadwick Boseman) during a recording session for the song ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’. 

The band, waiting for Ma Rainey's arrival at the recording studios, retraces racist episodes they experienced or heard about. Inverting this power game between Black and white men, Ma Rainey has the power through the whole film in her hands and voice, controlling the white music producer and manager. 

Image: IMDb

Moreover, the figures of Ma Rainey and Levee crash through each other, putting on stage her power and portraying his illusion of control over white men. The tension between the music producers, the band and ‘The Mother of Blues’ makes this late-20s Chicago a chaotic and hot place that fades away as soon as she begins singing. 

The colours and the costumes ensure that Ma Rainey is always in charge, making her standing out with a fancy dress, opposed to the humble pieces of clothes worn by the other characters. The yellow and gold colour palette highlights the warm and humid setting, giving a retro tone to the plot.

The exemplar and deep performance of the actors, ensure a sensual and pleasant view for the spectators and a close up vision to the 20s Blues. If you’re looking for a warm, truthful film with an acute beat that keeps you captivated, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the right fit for you. 

Rating: 4/5

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