Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen
Sometimes you can tell that a movie isn’t merely based on a play but hasn’t done a great deal to separate itself from its staged roots. That was definitely the case with Fences from a couple of years ago; I knew that was a stage play within a few minutes despite not knowing it was a play. I experienced the same thing with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. And, with a little digging, it makes sense. Denzel Washington is the producer of this film, and it’s the second film he’s worked on from playwright August Wilson; Washington’s goal is to produce all ten of his Century Cycle. In that respect, the two movies are closely related.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom takes place in Chicago on a single day in July of 1927. Blues singer Ma Rainey (Viola Davis, who is almost completely unrecognizable) has been contracted to make a couple of records for a producer in Chicago by her manager Irvin (Jeremy Shamos). Her main trio of players, trombonist Cutler (Colman Domingo), bassist Slow Drag (Michael Potts), and pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman) arrive on time. Hot shot trumpeter Levee (Chadwick Boseman in his final role) shows up shortly thereafter sporting a new pair of very expensive shoes. Levee isn’t in Ma Rainey’s group for the long haul. He has been promised by studio executive Mel Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne) that he can record some of his own music in the near future.