Tyler Perry’s A Jazzman’s Blues Is a Satisfying Historical Melodrama Decades in the Making

A JAZZMAN’S BLUES (2022)Austin Scott as Willie Earl and Amirah Vann as Hattie May. Cr: Jace Downs/NETFLIX
Jace Downs—NetflixAustin Scott and Amirah Vann share music as son and mother

Bayou and Leanne find solace in one another, meeting in secret at night. (She jets a paper airplane through his window as a signal, a romantic motif that finds a nice echo later in the film.) When she learns Bayou can’t read, she teaches him; they make plans to run off together. But circumstances separate them. Flash-forward to 1947: Bayou and Hattie Mae have left their rural home and now live in the town of Hopewell, where Hattie Mae runs a hugely successful nightspot. (She sings there, beautifully, every night, in addition to her regular gigs of midwifery and doing laundry.) A chance reunion between Leanne and Bayou sparks momentary bliss but also danger. Bayou leaves Hopewell for Chicago, where he finds grand success as a singer at a fancy club open to white patrons only. Onstage, he’s backed by an orchestra—one of its members is his own brother, who seethes with resentment—and flanked by gorgeous backup dancers. But it’s Leanne’s love that haunts him, and he’ll do anything to get back to her.

That’s barely even a quarter of what happens in A Jazzman’s Blues.

Tyler Perry’s A Jazzman’s Blues has everything, some things in such prodigious quantities that it might be a little too much: forbidden love, drug abuse, hints of incest, a Black woman who’s pushed into passing for white by her scheming mother, complex relationships between women who have every reason to resent each other, and a maternal figure who takes in laundry, helps bring babies into the world and runs a hoppin’ juke joint. You might have to turn the movie off now and then just to catch a breath.

But Perry’s vision is welcome in a world where so few filmmakers will take a chance on making an old-fashioned melodrama, even one that also explores, as this one does, some painful historical underpinnings. A Jazzman’s Blues has a sweep of 50 years: It opens in Hopewell, Georgia, in 1987, and tracks back to the major events in its characters’ lives, focusing largely on a shy young man named Bayou (played by the charming Joshua Boone), a country kid who, circa 1937, falls in love with local beauty Leanne (Solea Pfeiffer), a young woman who’s kept under strict watch by her grandfather. Bayou’s home life is troubled, too. His father, Buster (E. Roger Mitchell), a musician with excessive faith in his own gifts, despises him, preferring his older son, Willie Earl (Austin Scott), who has dutifully learned to play trumpet to please Buster. Bayou has a beautiful singing voice, inherited from his mother, Hattie Mae (Amirah Vann, in a taut, nuanced performance), a hardworking and sensible woman who tries her best to protect Bayou from Buster and Willie Earl’s bullying, risking Buster’s fury and abuse.

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Bayou and Leanne find solace in one another, meeting in secret at night. (She jets a paper airplane through his window as a signal, a romantic motif that finds a nice echo later in the film.) When she learns Bayou can’t read, she teaches him; they make plans to run off together. But circumstances separate them. Flash-forward to 1947: Bayou and Hattie Mae have left their rural home and now live in the town of Hopewell, where Hattie Mae runs a hugely successful nightspot. (She sings there, beautifully, every night, in addition to her regular gigs of midwifery and doing laundry.) A chance reunion between Leanne and Bayou sparks momentary bliss but also danger. Bayou leaves Hopewell for Chicago, where he finds grand success as a singer at a fancy club open to white patrons only. Onstage, he’s backed by an orchestra—one of its members is his own brother, who seethes with resentment—and flanked by gorgeous backup dancers. But it’s Leanne’s love that haunts him, and he’ll do anything to get back to her.

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That’s barely even a quarter of what happens in A Jazzman’s Blues. Perry has been hoping to make this film for more than 25 years—a conversation with August Wilson was an …read more

Source:: Time – Entertainment

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