Ma rainey’s black bottom

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a movie that tells the story of Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), a sultry, Harlem Renaissance singer in the late 1920s, from the South who comes to Chicago to make a record with Hot Rhythm Recordings. The film is based on the real life Ma Rainey, who was unknown to me until I saw this film. In the movie, Ma Rainey has achieved success, and good financial standing as she enters the twilight of her career. She is fiery, demanding, insecure, but confident in her ability to sing, and knows that her voice is the commodity that gives her leverage when dealing with the record label. She doesn’t tolerate any foolishness from the white label executives, nor her own band members who at times attempt to impose their own will on her vision of what her music should be. Her band is made up of four colorful individuals, Cutler, Toledo, Slow Drag and Levee. The movie is really about Levee (Chadwick Boseman) and his struggle to gain the limelight as a trumpeter for Ma Rainey’s band. Levee is an ambitious and talented musician, who wants to lead his own band, but his own tragic experience with racism leads to catastrophic conflict within the band itself. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom comes across as a one act play with two primary sets, the band room and recording studio, where the tense interactions take place between Ma Rainey, the record label executives, Levee and his band mates. This leads to some powerful stories on how these individuals have struggled and adapted to survive the racism, predatory practices of music labels and the regular human turmoil that comes from personal interaction in 1920s America. One could place this in modern times and see similar results! You will want to SPEND THE CASH on this one. The acting is powerful! Grade B

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