Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: A Meaningful, Timeless Classic

There is an exceptional film out there that has stemmed from a well-written play. This would be Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which was released in 2020 . This film was based on the work of August Wilson, who brilliantly captivated what it was like to be black and in America. August Wilson, he was born April 27, 1945 and dies on October 2, 2005 and was a brilliant American playwright. He is best known for his African American series called the Pittsburgh Cycle and has received many awards. Wilson was indicted into American theater Hall of Fame. And as Wilson wrote and then edited his play right to come into a version of a film, we see a very well thought out interpretation that describes message and emotion as well.

The film branched off of a Blues performer named Ma Rainey as well as her band. The band members included Toledo, Cutler, Levee and Slow Drag, who are various ages, As well as lifestyles.

These heartfelt realism movies are hard to come by as most of the time the saying is heard that “of course the book is better than the movie.” So, to start the movie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom first of all signed on incredible actors including Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Glynn Turman, Coleman Domingo, Michael Potts, as well as Jeremy Shamos, and Johnny Coyne. Levee, played by Boseman, shows intense emotion that stems off from his past, including his traumatizing childhood, the body language, facial features, and speech all tie into a phenomenal character. Then ,Viola Davis, who plays Ma, shows the other side of how even though she is even as she is famous, discriminated by both sides. These two main characters are who bind the whole story together from their two perspectives and what they choose to do with their lives.

True to the playwright, Ma Rainey, is a famous Black Blues singer, who usually stays down in Georgia, has come up all the way to Chicago to have her songs recorded by the urgings of Irvine and Sturdivant, who know they would make bank on Ma’s songs. The band arrives at the recording studio, with all of their musical instruments, except for the piano in tow. they are greeted in a fast manner by Irvin who only wants to know where Ma is as she is not with this group, as well as Levee. All of the group members are seen having small arguments and pushing each other’s buttons. This is stemmed continuously from Levee, who is a proud young man in his early 30s, saying that he wants to start his own band. This would be all fine, but Levee is rather disrespectful about it, which put all the members on edge. Levee later describes his traumatizing childhood; the viewers can see the brightness from the window shining on his anger and anguished face. This needed a stronger overall focus

Unfortunately, the whole group is having some minor problems along the way. As they are rubbing each other the wrong way constantly. Boldly, Ma, true to character, does not stand for any injustice but instead makes Irvine and Sturdivant completely beg for her performance for their record. We can see that this is the type of life that Levee wants, but as he doesn’t have the name or title that Ma does, so he cannot come close. We see this struggle in Levee the entire time. But one thing that he doesn’t know is that Ma only gets exactly what she wants when she wants it and how she wants it is because the studio needs something from her. Ma knows that the second they achieve the disk containing her songs on it she will be thrown out like yesterday’s garbage. But even when they get her voice, Ma is able to outsmart them. Unfortunately, Levee still tragically hurt from his past does not grow from his experiences like Ma has but takes out his anger on the band members causing a stunt in his life from moving forward.

Incredibly, the feeling that is brought out by the play is completed in the movie. There are many major emotional changes in the movie that set the viewer on a ride. This is something that is hard to accomplish. The play was well written, which makes the reader feel everything that was going on almost on a personal level. So, indeed most of the characteristics better drawn from the film to the movie are identical.

Both the play and the film require their due praise. In shifting to the film, one thing that was changed from the play to the film is when Levee breaks through the door and realizes that leads to nowhere, this was changed from the original place version where Levee leaves through that door . This has the impact to show how Levee wants to get from one place to another as stated before, but in this film, he sees that even when he breaks down was blocking him it’s not what he expected. “”August put in there him trying to get in through that door,” Wolfe notes.

“But I thought, ‘Let’s have him, at one point, break through that door and realize that door leads to nowhere.” The director confirms that the stark reality of what lies behind the door, which so preoccupies Levee throughout the proceedings, is meant to be a metaphor for the pervasive racism in America.” (screenrant)

So, in the end, both the film as well as the play have a significant impact on how African American people were treated even as slavery had been completely abolished. The message , strong clear, is one that will change people’s view for years ahead. As we still see racism in America that is actively being fought against. This movie will have a profound impact against the fight against racism.

Book, movie and poetry reviewer! Hope you enjoy!

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