Am I allowed to say that one of the first things I noticed about Viola Davis‘s Ma Rainey is her liberal application of rouge? And that she could do with a bit less?

Boilerplate: “Tensions and temperatures rise over the course of an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago as a band of musicians await the trailblazing Ma Rainey — legendary ‘Mother of the Blues.’ Late to the session, the fearless, fiery Ma engages in a battle of wills with her white manager and producer over control of her music. As the band waits in the studio’s claustrophobic rehearsal room, ambitious trumpeter Levee (Chadwick Boseman) — who has an eye for Ma’s girlfriend and is determined to stake his own claim on the music industry — spurs his fellow musicians into an eruption of stories, truths, and lies that will forever change the course of their lives.”

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett, 4.26.86 – 12.22.39) “was one of the earliest African-American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of blues singers to record. Known for her powerful vocals, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing and a moaning style of singing — qualities most evident in her early recordings ‘Bo-Weevil Blues’ and ‘Moonshine Blues’.”

“Rainey recorded with Thomas Dorsey and Louis Armstrong, and she toured and recorded with the Georgia Jazz Band. She toured until 1935, when she largely retired from performing and continued as a theater impresario in her hometown of Columbus, Georgia until her death at age 53.”