If you watch one new film at home over Christmas, make sure it's this one on Netflix.
A tour de force by the late Chadwick Boseman in a music drama filled with great performances, Ma Rainey's... is whip-smart, fast-moving, profound and, at times, very funny.
It tells the story of a sweltering day in 1920s Chicago, when Ma (Viola Davis) and her band rock up to a studio to make a new record. Well, the band members actually arrive first; fanfare is a prerequisite for Ma's presence in the building.
Ma's reign as 'Mother of the Blues' is looking shaky. She's getting older, she's crankier, tired and has youngsters nipping at her heels. Among them is her own trumpet virtuoso Levee (Boseman), another force of nature with lots of big ideas and a very short temper.
As the temperature rises, passions boil over - and lives will be changed forever.
It's surreal that Chadwick Boseman is no longer with us, and Ma Rainey's... will heighten that bewilderment in many a viewer. One second you're marvelling at seeing him at the top of his craft, and the next you're back to lamenting the terrible cruelty that is part of life.
Boseman's work here deserves a posthumous Oscar nomination - it shouldn't be the only nod for this movie. Viola Davis, who won her Oscar for her role in Fences - another adaptation of an August Wilson play - is also brilliant as the ferocious Ma. The supporting cast, including If Beale Street Could Talk's Colman Domingo and The Wire alumni Glynn Turman and Michael Potts, revel in the wild electricity of Wilson's dialogue and all get their share of moments. It's a cracking script, and the themes are tragically as relevant now as they were on that day in Chicago. As for the music, well, try keeping your foot still.
In the words of Ma's band leader, "One, two, you know what to do..."
We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences