Written and directed by Tyler Perry, the 2022 Netflix movie ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’ tells the story of an unsolved murder case of a black man in the 1940s through the letters to his lover. Joshua Boone plays Bayou, a shy young man who falls deeply in love with light-skinned Leanne (Solea Pfeiffer), whose mother forces her into pretending to be white and marries her off to a wealthy man. What follows next is a tragic love story filled wish a few rash decisions, terrifying racial discrimination and some joyous jazz music.
Better known for writing & directing comedy content, Perry’s attempt at a vintage story about love, betrayal and despair is earnest and has some poignant moments. However, I feel like it would’ve worked better if all the focus wasn’t on the romantic plot, especially because Leanne’s character is very grey – she may have redeeming qualities, but everybody can see she is an extremely selfish young woman whose actions put others at risk. I would’ve preferred if the story was told through Bayou’s mother’s perspective or if they had focused on the mother-son relationship more. Amirah Vann is radiant and inspiring as Hattie Mae, Bayou’s fierce independent mother, who knows how to take of herself and her own.
While Joshua Boone is charming as the shy but musically talented Bayou, Amirah Vann is a lot more riveting when she croons fun numbers at her cozy jukebox joint. Austin Scott as Willie Earl does the despicable, narcissistic older sibling act with conviction. Ryan Eggold’s small cameo as Jewish-German Ira is both empathetic and opportunistic; he helps the brothers make a career in music. ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’ best captures the essence of live music in the 1940s, it wasn’t just a means of entertainment, it uplifted people’s soul, brought communities together, gave reason to even the most impoverished and oppressed to take a break, sing a song and make merry.
It’s a 6/10 from me.
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