posted by R.J. Carmack   #@blues2jazzguy bessie NOW BESSIE: More B FLAT Than B Natural by Robert J. Carmack Watching the HBO produced TV movie “Bessie” with Queen Latifah as Blues singer Bessie Smith was quite painful. I not sure which was worse the writing or the acting, to be honest, the acting was scattered by instances like Michael K. Williams as Jack Gee and Khandi Alexander as the mean sister Viola…a surprise high-Dap acting performance by Mike Epps as Richard the Boot-legger.I thought he did a real good job in spite of the weak writing. I was most disappointed in Queen Latifah’s Bessie Smith. She did her best ,but unfortunately, she was unable to make that transition that great actors do when ,despite the uneven script their craftsman skills take over.Unfortunately, I never saw that happen during the two hours of the movie. I’m not sure if the producers/Director was, more or less trying to chase the Hip Hop audience. I felt they should have acted on bringing a quality performance that focused on the impact the iconic artist had on the Blues genre , the reasons we should care about Bessie Smith. The script appeared to gloss over important facts in the career and life of Bessie Smith from the historical sense. There was no shortage of her sexuality, drinking and uneven persona on stage and off. Perhaps, this is what I can expect from today’s writers and producers when delving into BLACK HISTORICAL CHARACTERS. I may be in the minority, but I expect no more from the upcoming movies on Nina Simone & Miles Davis. CAST: Queen Latifah, Mo’Nique, Michael Kenneth Williams, Mike Epps, Oliver Platt, Bryan Greenberg, Charles S. Dutton, Khandi Alexander, TikaSumpter, Tory Kittles AIRTIME: HBO, check local listings bessie  hbo large


  1. Thanks for the review. Actually I picked up on Latifa’s performance quality in the trailer. Where it appeared to be decent it did seem authentic. Her portrayal is too slick and not raw enough.
    I appreciate your honest opinion.


  2. Haaa, that was pretty brutal, Robert. I enjoyed the movie, and thought the performances were pretty outstanding (Monique’s Ma Rainey was especially good). The writing did leave a bit to be desired, and the ending left me wanting, but overall, I give it a “B Natural.”


    1. Thank you for your comments.. I ‘m sorry you felt that was a “brutal” review. Actually i felt I was too light, because many folks had not viewed the film at the time I wrote it. my review is based only on my eye and ears perspective . I have no agendas or vendettas. I feel we give far too many passes to poor or low quality work for many of today’s artists & writers/producers. The producers had an opportunity to paint a better picture and failed to do so on MANY FRONTS. Don’t get me wrong , I thought they did a ok job of even pulling her from the pages of history. a great opportunity was missed in producing a more real and aesthetically sound movie. better acting could have helped Bessie, I saw Latifah portrayal of Bessie Like I saw Beyonce play Etta james.


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