Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★½

I want to like this film more than I actually do. The film has strong performances and a solid story. Unfortunately very little thought was put into how to make it into a film. There's no real semblance of taking advantage of film as a medium, instead George C. Wolfe seems content to stage every scene exactly as it would be done on stage. This leads to the film ultimately feeling somewhat unsatisfying. The bland direction leads to the story losing the advantages of theater, without gaining the advantages of film.

That said, there is a lot more good than bad. As Hamilton showed this summer, there is nothing wrong with watching a stage performance on screen. Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis give spectacular performances. They feel very stage-y, but they are full of emotion and pack a real impact. This film is definitely worth watching, especially for those interested in seeing Chadwick Boseman's final performance, it just clearly could have been better had more attention been paid to the adaptation process.