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USA, English, 111 mins

  • Director: Dee Rees
  • Writer: Christopher Cleveland; Horton Foote
  • Producer: Shakim Compere; Hallie Foote

CGiii Comment

The bio-pic and its usual set of problems - where to start, where to end? What to put in? What to leave out? Oooooh flashbacks!!!

This starts somewhere in the middle and ends nowhere in particular...half of the film is a flashback...the rest is a skim-the-surface account of her decline, both professional and personal.
Bessie's death is omitted. Bessie's same-sex dalliances are included.
Queen Latifah gives a credible performance - despite an unincredible production. Dee Rees delivers a pedestrian account of Bessie's life - neither focusing on the woman nor the music...nothing about the hard-drinking, sexually adventurous Bessie is revealed. There is no light and shade, no revelations, nothing personal. Where is the star quality??? What made her shine so brightly? Questions that remain regretfully unanswered.
An unimaginative, formulaic bio that - sadly - does Ms Smith no justice whatsoever.


The(ir) Blurb...

The story of legendary blues performer, Bessie Smith, who rose to fame during the 1920s and '30s.

Cast & Characters

Tika Sumpter as Lucille;
Michael Kenneth Williams as Jack Gee;
Bryan Greenberg as John Hammond;
Oliver Platt as Carl Van Vechten;
Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith;
Khandi Alexander as Viola;
Mo'Nique as Ma Rainey;
Mike Epps as Richard;
Charles S. Dutton as William 'Pa' Rainey;
Tory Kittles as Clarence

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