GET ON UP
Director Tate Taylor, best known for directing The Help, brings you this film, Get On Up, based on the amazing life story of James Brown, better known as “The Godfather of Soul”. Taylor examines his music, his life, his struggles, his funk and his dancing directing Chadwick Boseman (best known for “42” and the upcoming Black Panther movie) as James Brown.
Taylor takes us on a journey from Brown’s humble beginnings in a life of poverty to his mesmerizing rise to the pinnacle of success. What ruins the movie from the start are the dizzying flashbacks that makes the film a maze of incoherent narratives that jump back and forth through periods of time in James’ life that breaks the flow of the story and of the mood. Not sure if the screenwriter’s, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (two white British guys), did this as a creative tool to enhance Brown’s style and frenetic dancing or just got lost among Brown’s story and attempted to incorporate as much as they could, savoring every morsel and detail of Brown’s life.
The flashbacks and vignettes are titled with one of Brown’s song titles to highlight a period in his life on the jumbled timeline. Because of this you feel totally disconnected to the character and story. The only thing you can do to save yourself from having a seizure is to just sit back and enjoy the music James Brown and the performance of Boseman. Boseman does an admirable job and lip synchs pretty well, but you can never shake that feeling that he’s pretending to be James Brown. He doesn’t embody the persona so that you lose yourself and forget about the existence of the real James brown. In the back of your mind there are always the comparisons between the two.
Taylor brings in a strong supporting cast with help from his “The Help” alumni, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, who delivers some amazing emotional depth to the story. Dan Aykroyd is as solid and funny as ever delivers scene stealing performances. Surprise cameo by Allison Janney (also from “The Help”) which was probably the funniest scene of the entire movie.
We learn a lot about James Brown the man who was troubled, arrogant, antagonistic and isolated with weird idiosyncrasies that make us wonder more about the man and less about the performer. This film attempts to showcase the talent, unique style and musical genius of James Brown but falls short of the mark. Go into this movie with low expectations. You may come out wanting to know less about the man and see and hear more of his performances.
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Dan Aykroyd
Director: Tate Taylor
Company: Universal Pictures
Now Showing: On DVD
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sexual content, strong language, drug scenes)