I’m a fan of director Tate Taylor, as well as of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. So when I learned that Taylor was directing an epic based on the musician’s life, I was excited. Luckily, I can say that I wasn’t disappointed.
Chadwick Boseman plays James Brown in Get on Up and gives us a complete, unflinching look inside the career and the amazing life story of James Brown. It takes us from his impoverished childhood, all the way to his rise to fame as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Boseman is supported by some amazing actors in this epic, including Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis, Lennie James, Tika Sumpter, Jill Scott and Dan Aykroyd.
What usually bothers me about movies based on musicians’ lives is that rarely can a director strike the right balance. Either they portray the musician as a monster, or they sugarcoat them until they are as squeaky clean as Justin Bieber’s image used to be.
This movie strikes the right balance between the two. It starts off with James Brown exploding into one of his well known fits of ego and anger, but slowly the real character of Brown starts to unravel. The story is told by frequent flashbacks, mixed with a bit of linear story-telling.
I think the timeline is really what makes this movie brilliant. Moments of huge success in Brown’s life are immediately compared to scenes of baseness and horror. You don’t just see the things Brown did wrong. You start to understand what made him the way he was.
Get on Up is a movie based on contrast, and is aptly named. You might see Brown fail on occasional, but he always returns to triumph.
I don’t know how realistic any of this was or if they stuck to the true story of James Brown’s life, but they seem to have captured him as a character. If there was one thing James Brown was, it was intense, and this is an intense movie. Taylor was the ideal person to direct this movie, as he seems to enjoy playing with contrasts and this movie is all contrast.
Of course, the movie doesn’t skimp on the music and there is plenty of opportunity to enjoy many of Brown’s most iconic songs.
I was extremely impressed with Boseman, who seemed to have the majority of the icon’s moves and mannerisms down. Though he didn’t have Brown’s frantic energy, I doubt anyone could replicate that. All in all, he created an excellent portrayal of a man who really can’t be replicated.
Sometimes the back and forth can get a bit confusing, but I think the back and forth was a necessary part of the movie. Watching this story in a linear format might make it difficult to stay with, as Brown really had a harsh upbringing and viewed all at once, that might be a bit of a downer.
This was yet another excellent film by Tate Taylor and the best I’ve seen Boseman since his stint as Jackie Robinson in 42. If you’re interested in the life of the legend James Brown, then this movie is absolutely worth the watch.
WE GAVE IT: 4.5 Stars: Official Movie Trailer and Movie Poster Below