December Previews: Netflix and Amazon

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)

George C. Wolfe (Lackawana Blues) directs this steamy adaptation of August Wilson’s play, starring Viola Davis as the irascible blues singer Ma Rainey as she lays down the titular track in 1920s Chicago. The film also features the last ever performance by Chadwick Boseman, one that could very well see him awarded a posthumous Oscar – only the third in history – next year. With Denzel Washington also behind the camera as a producer (he previously directed Wilson’s Fences), this is a classy take on a combustible human drama.

Mank (Netflix)

David Fincher’s welcome return to directing, six years after Gone Girl, sees him deliver one of his greatest works, Mank. A richly evocative period drama, set in 1930s Hollywood, Gary Oldman plays the alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, as he sets out to write his magnum opus, Citizen Kane. Shot in black-and-white, the aesthetic qualities – making it look like a film ripped out of Hollywood’s Golden Age – are second to none. Likewise the cast, with the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins and Tom Burke all making unforgettable appearances.

Sylvie’s Love (Amazon Prime)

Arriving just five days after Ma Rainey’s, Amazon Prime has its own music-driven drama, Sylvie’s Love. Set in the 1950s and early 1960s, Eugene Ashe’s second film stars Tessa Thompson as the daughter of a record store owner in Harlem who falls for a talented tenor sax player (played by former football star turned Broadway actor Nnamdi Asomugha). Lush production design and costumes squarely put audiences back in the era, with original musical numbers written by Fabrice Lecomte.

I’m Your Woman (Amazon Prime)

Making a distinct gear-change from her Amazon show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Rachel Brosnahan stars in Julia Hart’s new 1970s-set film as Jean, wife to a thief played by Bill Heck. His nefarious actions force her to go on the run with the baby that he’s just ‘given’ her without an explanation of where the child is from. Brosnahan has said she wanted to follow Diane Keaton in The Godfather, a lofty ideal but one that shows the ambitions of the actress and Hart, who co-wrote the script with her producer-husband Jordan Horowitz.

All shows available from December 2020 onwards.

James Mottram