The first reviews are in for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and folks, it looks like we have another major awards season contender on our hands. Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman lead George C. Wolfe‘s big screen adaptation of August Wilson‘s beloved play. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom transports viewers back to 1920s Chicago, where, over the course of a day, legendary jazz singer Ma Rainey (Davis) tries to get to a recording session where her band awaits her while clashing with her white managers. Meanwhile, Ma Rainey’s band sits around, converses, and clashes with one another as one member, Levee (Boseman), reveals his dreams of going solo.
The first reviews of Ma Rainey‘s Black Bottom reveal a few intriguing things. First, it’s evident this movie was screened for a variety of critics and journalists, with Black members of this community being given the same level of access (this is often not the case). As such, we are being given a fairer, more accurate, and more varied reaction to Wolfe’s handling of Wilson’s play and, among other things, the performances in it.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom premieres on Netflix on December 18. Check out the early reactions to the prestige drama below. For more, check out the reactions to fellow Netflix prestige pic Mank and see what’s coming to Netflix in November.
George C. Wolfe did a *great* job bringing August Wilson’s to the screen. While the entire cast is fantastic, both Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis are superb and I now understand why is pushing them in Award season.
— Steven Weintraub (@colliderfrosty)
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 to know it too.
— Clayton Davis (@AwardsCircuit)
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM: ????
Chadwick did the best acting of his career in this film. He shines!
Viola tops herself, in almost every way.
Colman Domingo elevates every scene.
George C. Wolfe’s direction ??.
Black ass, timeless excellence.
— Tre’vell Anderson (@TrevellAnderson)
MA RAINEY’s BLACK BOTTOM is fantastic and a succinct, pitch-perfect adaptation of the Wilson play. Chadwick Boseman’s final role is the best he’s ever been on-screen…probably the performance of a lifetime. Give him and Viola Davis their Oscars. Game over.
— Trey Mangum (@treymangum)
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM is a must see. There’s a rhythm to the dialogue that is synonymous with August Wilson plays, and Black language that Viola Davis, Chadwick Bozeman and Coleman Domingo & the other actors delivered beautifully. The direction and editing were flawless.
— Black Women’s Lives Matter. Carolyn Hinds (@CarrieCnh12)
MA RAINEY’s BLACK BOTTOM is EVERYTHING! Dynamic monologues, stellar performances and just a cinematic gem. Chadwick is beyond. Viola is incredible. Colman is superb. And honestly so many people in this cast are SERVING! Give it all the awards noms ??
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM features the best performance of Chadwick Boseman’s career. He’s vibrant. Energetic. Shattered. And holds this stagey production together. Viola Davis is great, as usual, but it’s Boseman’s showcase from beginning to end.
— Robert Daniels (@812filmreviews)
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.
— Jazz Tangcay (@jazzt)
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM is an embarrassment of riches, a collection of sterling performances that will take me days to process. Speechless. And deeply sad.
— Shannon Miller (@ShannonL_Miller)
Chadwick Boseman is electric in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Sizzling from start to finish, and has you hanging on his every word. And yup, Viola Davis is an absolute powerhouse. Mighty big fan of that dazzling cinematography from Tobias A. Schliessler, too.
— Perri Nemiroff (@PNemiroff)
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is Chadwick Boseman’s film. His jaw-dropping performance is full of spry hubris and fiery rage. If his ineffable talent wasn’t enough, Boseman is made immortal by the buoyant smile and infectious charm he brought to everything he touched. RIP
— Mark Johnson ? (@MarkLikesMovies)
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.
— Matt Neglia (@NextBestPicture)
‘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.
— Erik Anderson (@awards_watch)
My oh my, how magical Chadwick Boseman’s work is in MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM. His performance as Levee is a legendary as you imagined it’d be. He & Viola deserve every bit of this Oscar talk that’s been buzzing ✨?
— Angelique Jackson (@angelique814)
Allie Gemmill is the Weekend Contributing Editor for Collider. You can follow them on Twitter .