Bessie shows us an assortment of moments from that life but doesn't really make us feel it, despite Queen Latifah's best efforts.
It fleshes out Bessie Smith to a degree but certainly not in full measure. Latifah and Rainey can sure sing out, though. It's a pleasure to watch and hear them wail in a film that otherwise doesn't quite cut it.
Well-made biopic absent a whole lot of music and -- as a result -- much emotional resonance.
Bessie isn't a perfect movie. But for HBO's purposes, it's a big-time noisemaker - one with the kind of show-stopping work that, when they start handing out trophies, isn't likely to leave its star singin' the blues.
Bessie boasts powerful performances and a chance to hear the early blues popularized by Smith and her mentor, Ma Rainey.
A thoughtful and at times stirring example of how a film can add texture to a legendary figure.
Bessie Smith, who earned the title "Empress of the Blues" back in the 1920s, remains a voice that should be heard today.
A beautifully affecting biopic.
It takes just the first few raunchy and emotionally searing minutes of "Bessie" to grasp why Queen Latifah-its star and one of its producers-viewed this story of Bessie Smith's life and career as a labor of love, or more precisely, passion.