Based on a Tony-winning Broadway musical, The Prom stars Meryl Streep and James Corden as New York City stage stars whose careers go down the tubes after their expensive new Broadway show becomes a major flop. But they soon plot a way to revive their flagging fortunes by heading with two other actors to small-town Indiana. There high school student Emma Nolan (newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman) has been banned from attending the prom with her girlfriend Alyssa (Ariana DeBose).
Directed by Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story), the film’s sparkling cast also includes Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Kerry Washington, Andrew Rannells, Tracy Ullman, Mary Kay Place and more. We’re not familiar with the stage show, but Murphy’s first huge mainstream success was Glee, so this kind of brings him back to his high school musical days. But wait, no role for Sarah Paulson?
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
December 18 on Netflix
There’s no avoiding the heartbreaking reality that Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom contains the final screen performance of Chadwick Boseman, who died last August from cancer. And seeing him on screen again makes one realize just what an incredible talent we lost. As the ambitious yet hot-headed trumpet player Levee, Boseman is stupendous: he has two scenes in this movie in which all the rage and pain of being a Black man in America pours out of him, and he simply sears the screen.
As does Viola Davis in the title role of the blues singer who assembles her band on a fateful day in 1927 to record her songs–for a white-owned record label, of course. Based on August Wilson’s Tony-winning play and directed by George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is certainly about the exploitation of Black musicians by white businessmen. But it’s also about the blues themselves, as well as race, religion, sex, and African American culture, all stirred up in gripping fashion. One of the year’s best.