Critics Consensus

Strong performances, led by Queen Latifah, overpower a middling script in the entertaining and informative Bessie.



Total Count: 28


Audience Score

User Ratings: 488
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Movie Info

Queen Latifah stars in this biopic of pioneering singer Bessie Smith, depicting her tempestuous relationships and incomparable artistry in the down-and-dirty world of Southern blues.


Queen Latifah
as Bessie Smith
Bryan Greenberg
as John Hammond
Charles S. Dutton
as William "Pa" Rainey
Mike Epps
as Richard
as Ma Rainey
Oliver Platt
as Carl Van Vechten
Tika Sumpter
as Lucielle
Tory Kittles
as Clarence
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News & Interviews for Bessie

Critic Reviews for Bessie

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (20) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (3)

  • Bessie shows us an assortment of moments from that life but doesn't really make us feel it, despite Queen Latifah's best efforts.

    Dec 3, 2015 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Dec 3, 2015 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

    Ed Bark

    Uncle Barky
    Top Critic
  • Well-made biopic absent a whole lot of music and -- as a result -- much emotional resonance.

    Dec 3, 2015 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

    Verne Gay

    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Dec 3, 2015 | Full Review…

    Brian Lowry

    Top Critic
  • Bessie boasts powerful performances and a chance to hear the early blues popularized by Smith and her mentor, Ma Rainey.

    Dec 3, 2015 | Full Review…
  • A thoughtful and at times stirring example of how a film can add texture to a legendary figure.

    Dec 3, 2015 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Bessie

  • May 22, 2016
    This felt very long. The way Bessie was portrayed made her very unlikeable.
    Erin C Super Reviewer

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