Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Everything comes out in the blues
Everything comes out in the blues

D: George C. Wolfe

Netflix / Escape Artists / Mundy Lane (Denzel Washington, Todd Black & Dany Wolf)

US 🇺🇸 2020

94 mins


W: Ruben Santiago-Hudson [based on the play by August Wilson]

DP: Tobias A. Schliessler

Ed: Andrew Mondshein

Mus: Branford Mansalis

PD: Mark Ricker

Cos: Ann Roth

Viola Davis (Ma Rainey), Chadwick Boseman (Levee Green), Glynn Turman (Toledo), Colman Domingo (Cutler), Michael Potts (Slow Drag), Jonny Coyne (Mel Sturdyvant)

A rather unfortunate title, it may have, but this is a solid adaptation of August Wilson’s stage play, featuring two excellent leading performances.

Viola Davis plays Ma Rainey, a blue singer at a Chicago recording studio in the 1920’s, where tensions flare between her and her producer and amongst her backing musicians, mostly spearheaded by the exuberant trumpeter, Levee Green, whose overconfidence causes friction with the rest of the band.

The production does feel very set bound, making its origins very obvious, but the performances are so strong that this doesn’t really become an issue.

It may well work better as a stage play, but as an adaptation to the big screen, this is a fine composition.


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom