'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom': Sink or Stream?

Should you skip out on this blues show, or stick around to see what Ma Rainey and her band can do?

By Jesse Conner

Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."

© Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Drama / 2020

Tensions rise when trailblazing blues singer Ma Rainey and her band gather at a recording studio in Chicago in 1927.

There have been so many music icons that have overcome so much and in one way or another, they're memorialized in history from books written about them, movies made about them, or just simply their songs that live on forever.

One African American woman who's an extremely significant part of that history of music has finally had her life captured in a motion picture released on Netflix today called "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."

Viola Davis portrays the "Mother of Blues" herself Ma Rainey, starring alongside Chadwick Boseman in his final performance before his unfortunate passing.

Before you decide whether or not you can make the time to stream this story, we're here to make sure you know all the reasons why you may or may not like it.

Reasons to Sink

© Netflix

  • There are really only one or two primary settings throughout the entire film, so at times the plot can feel a bit static.
  • A large portion of the film consists of various stories and conversations being shared amongst members of the band, some of which are very explicit and violent in nature which might make audiences feel a bit uncomfortable.

Reasons to Stream

© Netflix

  • For a film that doesn't have too many characters or settings, there's so much emotional depth and energy beneath its simplicity, which makes it a captivating watch.
  • In his final performance, Chadwick Boseman reaches deep into himself and pulls out a wealth of emotions, racing back and forth on the spectrum in such a way that he makes you uncertain of what his character will do next.
  • Viola Davis is incredible as Ma Rainey, bringing an empowering, authoritative presence to the film which not only outlines the heavy prevalence of racism within the industry, but also shows how Ma Rainey pushed back on entitled executives and make strides for other artists to come.
  • The music in the film is sensational with great musical performances all around.

Sink or Stream?

Is "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" worth watching? We're here to say you absolutely NEED to stream this film!

The movie leaves a bittersweet taste in our mouth; bitter because of Boseman's unfortunate passing earlier this year, and sweet because it's clear he put his heart and soul into this last performance, only adding to the greatness of his legacy.

Producer Denzel Washington describes Boseman's performance, "he's a man among men, in my opinion," which is high praise coming from someone we hold in the highest regard in the industry.

To see Viola Davis' interpretation of Ma Rainey and Chadwick Boseman's last performance, stream now on Netflix.

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