Last month, we saw the first picture and teaser from HBO’s upcoming Bessie, a biopic covering the life of blues songstress Bessie Smith, arguably the most exquisite set of pipes North America has ever produced. Smith is being portrayed by Queen Latifah, and the latest trailer highlights what looks to be one of her routine firebrand performances as the blues singer, who was notorious for her drinking and subsequent mean streak. More than the teaser, for certain, this trailer also gives a small sense of Smith’s tumultuous relationship with her husband, played by Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire), and Ma Rainey (Mo’Nique), her longtime friend, colleague, and fellow singer. The rest of the film that can be gleaned from the new trailer looks to be normal biopic fare, the same kind of scenes of alcoholism, emotional breakdowns, abuse, and performance that make up more than 50% of like-minded musician films like Walk the Line or Ray.
Like those pictures, it’s likely the entire movie will be anchored by Latifah’s performance, and I’d honestly be shocked if we don’t see both her and Bessie at the Golden Globes later this year. The fact that the music is so top-to-bottom fantastic also adds a major element of enticement to the entire project, to say nothing of Latifah’s undeniable abilities in the realm of crooning. Regardless of whatever accolades Bessie lands by the end of the year, the story being told in the film is one that should be told, for both its assemblage of historical detail and concepts of racial identity altered by the blinding glare of the limelight.
HBO will release Bessie on May 16th, and you can watch the trailer below: