- 1 hr 52 min
Bessie is a 2015 biographical drama film produced by Queen Latifah, who also stars as Bessie Smith, the legendary blues singer known as the "Empress of the Blues." The film explores the life and career of Bessie from her early days as a struggling artist to her rise to fame as one of the most influential and successful African American entertainers of her time. The story begins in 1912 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where we see a young Bessie performing on the street for spare change. Despite her talent, she faces numerous obstacles as a black woman in the music industry, including racism and sexism. But Bessie is determined to succeed and with the help of her older brother Clarence (played by Mike Epps), she begins to make a name for herself in the local clubs. As Bessie's career takes off, she becomes involved in a tumultuous relationship with her husband Jack Gee (played by Michael Kenneth Williams), a man who is often absent and unfaithful. Despite their troubled marriage, Bessie remains committed to her music and continues to push the boundaries of what is possible for a black artist in the Jim Crow South. Along the way, Bessie meets and collaborates with many other influential musicians of the time, including Ma Rainey (played by Mo'Nique) and Lionel Hampton (played by Bryan Greenberg). But behind the scenes, she struggles with her addiction to alcohol and drugs, which often takes a toll on her health and her relationships. Throughout the film, Queen Latifah delivers a powerful and nuanced performance as Bessie, capturing both her vulnerability and her strength. She is supported by a talented cast, including Kamryn Johnson and Rikki McKinney, who play Bessie's nieces Ruby and Viola, and who serve as a reminder of the importance of family in Bessie's life. The film also features a stunning soundtrack of Bessie's original music, performed by Queen Latifah and other talented musicians. It is clear that the filmmakers took great care to recreate the look and feel of the 1920s and '30s, with intricate costumes and sets that transport the viewer to a bygone era. Overall, Bessie is a powerful and moving tribute to one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, and a reminder of the struggles that black musicians and women faced in the early 1900s. With its stunning performances and richly detailed storytelling, Bessie is a must-see film for anyone who loves music, history, or great cinema.