“This be an empty world without the blues,” says Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, coming to select theaters in November and Netflix on Dec. 18. The film, based on the play by Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson (Fences), is Chadwick Boseman’s last performance. Boseman, best known for playing the titular role in Black Panther and for playing Jackie Robinson in 42, died of colon cancer on Aug. 28.
The film chronicles a single recording session on a blazing hot Chicago afternoon in the 1920s with Rainey, also known as the “Mother of the Blues,” and her band of musicians. Among them is an ambitious and talented trumpeter, Levee (Boseman) who is eyeing both Ma’s girlfriend and her success. Meanwhile, Ma is butting heads with her white manager and producer over control of her music.
The movie is directed by George C. Wolfe and adapted for the screen by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. It’s produced by Denzel Washington and Todd Black. Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Taylour Paige and Dusan Brown co-star. Branford Marsalis scored the film.