The wait is over, and first reactions to Netflix’s upcoming awards season juggernaut “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” are finally here. And they’re major, with showers of acclaim for Oscar shoo-ins Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Directed by George C. Wolfe and adapted from the beloved play by August Wilson, the drama debuted on Saturday, November 14 as part of a sneak-peek virtual premiere in partnership with the American Film Institute. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is set to launch on Netflix everywhere December 18.
In “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” tensions and temperatures escalate throughout the course of an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago. A band of musicians await the arrival of one trailblazing performer, the Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey. She’s played by Viola Davis, the Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress for another August Wilson adaptation, director Denzel Washington’s “Fences.” (Washington is also a producer on “Ma Rainey’s.”) Late to the session, Ma Rainey stirs up ado with her white manager and producer over the control of her music. Meanwhile, the band waits in a claustrophobic rehearsal room, where trumpeter Levee (Boseman), with ambitions of his own, spurs his fellow musicians into revealing truths that will change all their lives.
The movie has buzz for Boseman’s posthumous (and final) performance. Netflix is planning to campaign Boseman in the Lead Actor category at the Oscars, with his turn in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” (also for Netflix) vying for Supporting Actor.
The cast of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” also includes Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, and Michael Potts.
Check out a roundup of first reactions from Twitter below.
August Wilson rookie George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom will clean up at the Oscars. It’s timely in the way it shows how anger can simmer and explode. Actors will love Viola Davis as the blues singer and Chadwick Boseman as her trumpeter: he could win a posthumous Oscar.
— Anne Thompson (@akstanwyck) November 15, 2020
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM is a dynamic adaptation of August Wilson’s play with vibrant cinematography, music & costumes. Chadwick Boseman’s swan-song is his best with two stunning monologues that rank among some of the best ever. Viola Davis dominates the screen & all in her path. pic.twitter.com/P1iexrxQtT
— Matt Neglia (@NextBestPicture) November 15, 2020
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a scorcher. Chadwick Boseman is a class act and his delivery of August Wilson’s monologues are impeccable. I miss him. Viola Davis is magnificent, commanding the screen with every word. I’m in awe of Tobias Schliessler’s cinematography. pic.twitter.com/XaR4mUWeyR
— Jazz Tangcay (@jazzt) November 15, 2020
‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ gives us an outstanding turn from Viola Davis but it’s Chadwick Boseman that leaves it all out on floor in a stellar, Sidney Poitier-level, Oscar-worthy performance. Colman Domingo gives excellent support and Branford Marsalis’s score is aces. pic.twitter.com/deH4QpQS1h
— Erik Anderson (@awards_watch) November 15, 2020
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the best work on film in Chadwick Boseman’s too-brief career. It is also the best piece of writing he had to work with. The film doesn’t escape its theatrical organization origins, but might be the most fully realized film in Netflix’s award arsenal.
— David “Trump = Loser” Poland (@DavidPoland) November 15, 2020
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM has Chadwick Boseman unload every ounce of himself on screen. Everything he could/would offer cinema is entrenched in his Levee. Viola Davis is magnificent (smaller role than expected). Adore Glynn Turman & want #Oscars to know it too. #FilmTwitter pic.twitter.com/Sibay5Ru46
— Clayton Davis (@AwardsCircuit) November 15, 2020
— Scott Feinberg (@ScottFeinberg) November 15, 2020
Thought Viola Davis was excellent in MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM. A commanding performance with plenty of subtext that serves as the truthful core of the succinct story. She is always great, and this movie adds to her outstanding filmography. pic.twitter.com/aI9mUWFQmL
— Carlos Aguilar (@Carlos_Film) November 15, 2020
Viola Davis gives a performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” that should win a Tony, an Emmy, and an Oscar. Hell, I’d throw in a Grammy too. An indelible Wilson performance — as good as her Tony-winning work in “Fences.” An incarnation of the blues in acting. 1/3
— Charles McNulty (@CharlesMcNulty) November 15, 2020