Review By Monique Thompson
The life of the late legendary Godfather of Soul, James Brown, is highlighted in the long awaited biopic, Get On Up. Starring Chadwick Boseman (42, Lincoln Heights) as James Brown and Nelsan Ellis (True Blood) as the Famous Flame Bobby Byrd, Get On Up shadows James Brown on his rags to riches story.
The film immediately starts with you wondering exactly where it will go next as the opening scene shows James walking towards the stage as he’s getting ready to perform a sold out show, then quickly jumps to a scene where James is clearly high on something and pulls out a gun at a business meeting because one of the attendees “took a sh**” in his private bathroom. Each of the scenes will eventually pick back up later on in the film as different events are chronicled including James’ childhood and his mother’s decision to abandon him as a child.
Directed by Tate Taylor (The Help), Get On Up is very exciting as it doesn’t necessarily always follow the usual chronological order that most biopics do. In a very similar fashion as was done in Ray, several moments from Brown’s childhood is detailed later as it resonates with him as he gets older. One moment is when Brown is backstage following his performance at the Apollo theater and his mom whom he hasn’t saw in years shows up. As he deals with emotions of either accepting her with open arms or abandoning her as she did to him, the film jumps to a young Brown living with his Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer). He sees his mom stumbling drunk with an unknown man and she totally ignores him when he calls out “Mom” to her.
Whether you’re a fan of Brown or not, no denying the fact that he definitely had many lows during his career and personal life. Not only was he a great musician, but in the biopic, you get to see him as a business man, who’s not only a little egotistical but can also be a loving and caring man and husband. Definite standouts would be his long-time friend Bobby Byrd’s dedication to their friendship and his then his wife Dee Dee (Jill Scott) dealing with Brown as he starts to become physically abusive. Chadwick Boseman does an amazing job at portraying Brown’s demeanor, the way he walked, talked, and perfectly lip-synching during performances.
No doubt, Get On Up showcases exactly why James Brown beat all odds from this childhood and racial stereotypes to solidify himself as the legendary Godfather of Soul.
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