With this feature film directed by the incredible Viola Davis, George C. Wolfe makes us discover the story of the “mother of the blues”, but above all it offers us the most beautiful performance of Chadwick Boseman.
The heat is as heavy as the atmosphere is oppressive. However, Ma Rainey’s blues notes fly to the ears of the audience with a disconcerting lightness. Nominated for 5 Oscars in 2021 (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Sets and Artistic Direction, Best Costumes, Best Makeup and Hairstyles), MY RAINEY’S BLUES tells the story of Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), an African-American icon and queer which transformed a musical scene which does not however continue to despise it today. Through this camera adapted from a piece of August wilson, George C. Wolfe focuses for a day on recording the new studio album of the “mother of the blues”.
For an hour and a half, MY RAINEY’S BLUES brings 1920s Chicago back to life as the singer prepares to lose her title of queen of the blues to the young Bessie smith. In his game, Viola Davis is fascinating. As makeup as irreverent, the actress pushes the limits of her interpretation and grabs the viewer with each sentence. With his build, the performer physically embodies Ma Rainey and offers a performance that has earned her today to be in the running for the Oscar for best actress. However, “The mother of the blues” does not monopolize all the attention of the spectator whose gaze is often caught by the other characters.
While Ma Rainey stays in her studio, her musicians kill time in a basement room. In an oppressive room, Levee (Chadwick Boseman), Cutler (Colman Domingo), Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and Toledo (Glynn Turman) discuss their life between a few musical notes. In these moments stolen from the unfolding of history, the four men evoke their respective lives, their faith and their family. In the midst of these exchanges, Chadwick boseman hits the spectator right in the heart as soon as he opens his mouth. During a poignant monologue, the actor evokes his traumatic childhood and his anger against a God who did not know how to protect his family.
At the time, neither the director nor the other actors in the film knew that Chadwick boseman had been battling cancer for four years. In an interview for Vanity Fair, George C. Wolfe admits that after trying scenes, the actor sometimes retired to a stairwell. His character thus oscillates between excitement and anger and his face brilliantly captures all the emotions going through him. The ambitious musician is just waiting for his place on the stage to escape from the basement in which he feels cramped. Yet here he is, locked up with other musicians far from the light in which he would like to interpret his songs. From laughter to tears, Chadwick boseman delivers an absolutely heartbreaking performance.
If the daring and nervousness of BLUES DE MA RAINEY are not enough to make a grandiose film, the interpretations of Viola Davis and Chadwick boseman nevertheless require some attention. The film premiered on Netflix in December, four months after the death of Chadwick boseman. The actor, who had already been propelled thanks to his role in Black panther, offers here his last performance, poignant between tenacity and fragility. Thanks to this role, the interpreter of Levee thus received his first Oscar nomination which will also be his last.
• Original title : My Rainey’s Black Bottom
• Creation: George C. Wolfe
• Actors: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts, Taylor Paige
• Release date : December 18, 2020
• Duration: 93 minutes