Movie Review: "Get On Up"
The breakout star of biopics, Chadwick Boseman (“42”) succeeds with another life story of a famous legend. This time he traded in his baseball bat and cleats for a mic and a relaxer as James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul,” in “Get On Up,” directed by Tate Taylor (“The Help”).
The movie is orchestrated in a not-so-typical order of events, switching back and forth between different times in Brown’s adult and youth life. Although the timeline is nonlinear, it certainly meshes into a well-produced movie. The back-and-forth element provides an understanding of Brown’s life. It also provides mystery to the multiple storylines that answer the question, “Who is James Brown?”
The movie places a great emphasis on Brown’s personal life, how he came to music and how music influenced his life in return. The self-proclaimed funk master’s musical appreciation for harmonies, melodies and the feelings behind his songs all belong to the church. Although Brown was not very spiritual, the feelings and the sounds of “church music” are what influenced him to become one of the most imitated musicians of all time. The line, “I’m James Brown, and I made a difference,” emphasizes James Brown’s impact as a music legend.
Boseman sheds light on Brown as a musical genius. From the way he talks to the way he walks, he was James Brown. He puts his all into this role and brings Brown back to life once again. He was able to portray the many sides of Brown: the musician, the father, the husband, the businessman, the sarcastic guy and so much more. Not only is Boseman a great selection to play the lead, but the entire cast is thoughtfully arranged. Jill Scott (“Baggage Claim”) plays Brown’s second wife, DeeDee, who held him down through the drugs, abuse, number one singles and trailblazing tours. Nelsan Ellis (“True Blood”) plays Bobby Byrd, Brown’s best friend and longtime bandmate. Octavia Spencer (“Fruitvale Station”) and Viola Davis (“The Help”) also make appearances playing Brown’s aunt and mother, respectively.
“Get On Up” accurately portrays Brown in a way that engages the audience with who he really was, and how he influenced the music of this generation and generations to come. It is an informative timeline of his story, which is a part of musical history. It shows how he broke barriers and stood his ground in order to be the type of musician that he wanted to be.
“Get On Up” (PG-13, 138 min) is now playing at AMC Mazza Gallerie and other D.C. theaters.