That was an excellent one.
Beautiful, moving film.
The film's masterful storytelling did its job. The message was clear. No need to overdo.
Through painfully honest and emotional moments, the movie becomes irresistibly relatable
I knew nothing about Bessie Smith going into this movie. And after watching it I feel like I still know next to nothing. Bessie is the story of legendary '20s and '30s blues singer Bessie Smith. We meet Smith as she is starting out, playing small time nightclubs. She has a great voice and plenty of ambition, but she's going nowhere fast. That is until she spies Ma Rainey (Mo'Nique, stealing all the scenes) and learns to build her act up. The problem with the film is that it tries to cover too much ground. It covers about 20 years in Bessie's life, from her start working in small clubs, to her success and decline and eventual comeback. The lack of focus makes the film feel abrupt as their are just too many characters and not enough of a through line as people come in and out of Bessie's life. Queen Latifah does a good job as Smith. But ironically she ends up completely upstaged by Mo'nique even though in real life the reverse is true. Mo'nique has a small role and only appears in about the first quarter of a movie, but she simply owns every inch of the screen when she's on it. She has a beautiful voice, you can tell she's a singer just by the way she speaks, and a commanding swagger. Once she leaves she takes a lot of excitement with her. She leaves the impression that she could have handled a film about Ma Rainey. The rest of the cast is solid. Tika Sumpter looks gorgeous in a mostly nothing role, playing Smith's long time companion. Michael K. Williams manages to make a solid impression as a brash bodyguard turned lover as Smith's husband. The real star of the show are the costumes. Note perfect, sumptuous and gorgeous they make every scene appealing and are always photographed to perfection. Even while the rest of the movie disappoints the clothing is always there to give something for the eye to enjoy.
Queen Latifah (Chicago) stars as the title character Bessie Smith in HBO's Bessie, a biopic on the life of the American legendary blues singer. The film focuses on Smith's transformation from a struggling young singer into the "Empress of the Blues," one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920's. Times were rough for ol Bessie growing up and even after her rise to fame. Her parents and brother died when she was young and was looked after by her older sister, this on top of the fact that she was black, bisexual and growing up in Tennessee in the mid 1900's
lets just say they could of gone a lot better for her. To help ends meet for her family Bessie and her brother sung and danced in a duet on the streets of Chattanooga. By 1912 Smith was a known singer in her part of town, delighting people with her voice and dancing, well
most people. Although she had a great voice a lot of people were judgmental about her appearance. One scene in the movie she is mortified during an audition when she is given the paper bag test. Basically they hold a regular brown paper lunch bag up to her face, if her skin tone is lighter than the bag, she passes. They only wanted light skin black preforming; Smith didn't pass and is laughed off stage. Little did the producer know that Smith had a volatile temper and proceeded to push him down to the floor. Her temper was pretty notorious back in the day, not saying she would fly off the handle for no reason, no. As a matter of fact (from what the film showed me) all of her violent outbursts were for good reason. The opening shot of the film, Smith is in the alleyway of a performance making out with a man, he wants to take it to third base, Bessie doesn't, so the man punches her in the face and leaves a scar on her head. She returns the favor by cutting his thigh with a piece of broken glass. Her temper would catch up with her though, one night after a successful performance she and a large group of people are partying backstage when another man calls Bessie a "fat bitch." Bessie corrects the man by slapping him and is just about to bash him over the head with a vase when she takes pity and tells him to leave. The man waits hours for her outside and stabs her prison style as she leaves the party. She survives of course, but takes a licking.I loved the movie Bessie for the most part. All the performances from everybody in the film were fantastic, literally everybody brought they're "A" game. The one performance I was most impressed with was Mo'Nique (Precious) as Ma Rainey, Bessie protégé. Rainey was the first person to give Bessie a job as a dancer for her troupe having already earned success as a blues singer. She would later take note of Bessie's great singing voice and move her up the ladder from dancer to singer. Mo'Nique absolutely nails it as Rainey, a fair but tough business lady. Before Bessie, Rainey was the hot ticket in town. She was so hot she was able to waltz into any white owned dance club and make a list of demands including higher pay, and they would give into her. This performance proves that her academy award for the movie Precious was well deserved. One big drawback for the film was that it felt extremely rushed. I know it's often hard to make a two-hour film chronicling a person's entire life, but scene and characters seemed to come and go within a matter of minute. It has also been pointed out on many message boards that this film to a lot of liberty in what actually happened in Bessie life, mostly her relationship with Ma Rainey. In the film it makes it look like Rainey was the one that taught Bessie to sing, when in real life this wasn't the case. The DVD for Bessie is barebones; a short documentary into the making of the film featuring interviews with the stars is all we get. Picture and audio are top notch, but I would have liked some more extra features. With all that said Bessie is still an entertaining film with excellent acting. It probably won't be one you go back to watch that often, but if you're a fan of the blues, this movie should tickle your fancy
Long-overdue and obviously made with good intentions, this TV biopic of legendary 1920s Blues queen suffers from usual script trouble: how to condense someone's life in a two-hour story without making it all like a cartoon. The project was already planned for decades, I remember media talking about possibility of this movie even in early 1970s, right after "Lady sings the Blues" and back than Roberta Flack (who was white-hot at the time) was considered for the main role. Not that Bessie was ever forgotten - "Columbia records" kept her complete works on the market, Janis Joplin paid for her gravestone, there were theater plays and books about her life, notably by Chris Albertson who became world's greatest authority on the subject (and was curiously ignored in making of this movie). It took four decades to finally have this biopic made and contrary to my great expectations, I am saddened that it all resulted with such a predictable stereotypical fantasy.Ingredients are right: cast is spectacular and gives its best shot. Not just Queen Latifah in the main role and Mo'Nique (as Ma Rainey) but countless actors playing the circle of lovers, husbands, boyfriends and relatives are impressive, particularly Khandi Alexander (as vicious cousin) who steals the scene every time she comes up on the screen. Clothing, scenery, visually everything works just fine and for a while you might even enjoy the thrill of re- created world of 1920s specially as actors are so sizzling and determined, there is a very fascinating insight into a long-gone segregated, brutal world of woman who escaped crushing poverty and became breadwinner for everybody around her. BUT (and there is a big but) even though ingredients are right and yes, it actually happen just as shown in the movie (it can be checked in her biography, yes she did spit out and was rejected on her first recording audition, yes she faced the Ku Klux Clan, yes Ma Rainey sang ""Black Bottom Blues", yes she traveled in her own train caravan) after a while script rushes so much that everything becomes one big blur of short episodes piled on top of each other to the point that it really seems like cartoon version of Bessie's life, short nuggets and photo shots. Concerts. Click. Racists. Click. Dominating boyfriend-turned-husband-turned-manager. Click. Bootlegged booze. Click. Fights. Click. Pale white boys interested to make money out of her. Click. She's bisexual. Click.No doubt movie is fascinating for young audience who are finally introduced to artist and those who have never heard of this feisty lady and her contemporaries might be impressed to find out that almost a century ago there were proud black women fighting like lionesses for their own place in the world. Not everybody was a maid, washerwoman or prostitute - Bessie, Rainey, Ida Cox, Alberta Hunter, Victoria Spivey, Lucille Bogan and Sippie Wallace (to name just a few) were heroines of their time and even though they represented "sin" it was still better option than to scrub the stairs in Baltimore. So on one side it works as reminder about important chapter in American history and kudos to good intentions, it might intrigue kids to search for original recordings.Where the film fails is to dig just a little deeper under the surface and explain reasons for Bessie's behavior - we all understand she was this brilliant artist but what we see in the movie is woman who drinks, fights, cusses and basically intimidates everyone around. It is a testament to Queen Latifah's acting that she suggests vulnerability hidden deep inside under all that bravado and there were few short scenes (mostly when she is alone with herself, coming home after the concerts) that glimpse in direction where this movie did not dare to go and which would work much better had the creators or script writers decided to explore her inner world instead of giving us point-by-point well-known snapshots. Curiously, film decidedly ends on a upbeat note, going so far to even present Bessie's triumph in Carnegie Hall (which never happened) and completely ignoring circumstances around her death. I have been living with her music for decades now so naturally after initial excitement about the movie I feel saddened that this big chance is missed now and since it took 78 years from her death for her story to finally reach the movie screen, I doubt that in my life I will see another attempt.
Queen Latifah totally captured the soul of blues singer Bessie Smith, in this film biography of the legendary singer.The problem with the picture is the disconnection we see throughout. It is not clear regarding the circumstances of the death of Smith's mother, which she is blamed for. Even when Smith visits the cemetery years later, we don't see the monument of the mother.Latifah is excellent in the role. Her singing is tremendous and she comes across as a tough, vulgar, often drunk young woman who knew from an early age what she wanted out of life.Smith was brash, totally outspoken and not afraid of anything or anyone. We see this when she chased Klan members away while performing in North Carolina.She receives fine support from Monique as Ma Rainey. We see the latter give Smith pointers, only for the two to split when Smith wants more recognition. Years later, when the depression hits, they're suddenly reunited and this apparently opened doors for Bessie.