Movie makers are often attracted to the real life stories of individuals defined by their genius and dysfunction. And if a good soundtrack can be had, that is an appealing bonus. Thus it is not surprising that the complex story of the life of singer James Brown, aka “The Godfather of Soul,” was made into movie in the biopic “Get on Up,” currently grooving in theatres.
Defying a conventional chronological structure, “Get on Up,” moves back and forth between all of the key moments of Brown’s tumultous life and career. The sequences devoted to his childhood mark his troubled relationship with his poverty-stricken and immature parents during the 1930s and 1940s. His mom (played by Viola Davis) abandoned the family to resume a life of prostitution. Shortly after this, James's dad sent him to live with his aunt (played by Octavia Spencer). Church became a component of his life, albeit more for the music than the message as the undisciplined youngster took on odd jobs around his aunt’s brothel. As an adolescent, James (played by Chadwick Boseman) was arrested and convicted for stealing a suit. In jail, he met Bobby Byrd (played by Nelsan Ellis), a member of a gospel quartet brought in to entertain the prisoners. Bobby’s family got him out of jail, and James started singing with their band. After a short time, he started performing secular music with his now signature raw vocals and distinctive moves. After they attracted the attention of an agent, James’ career was launched.
Although the narrative structure is a little odd at the beginning, “Get on Up” is still worth seeing as it tells a great story and has an unbeatable score. Also, it is not afraid to show James’s dark side. We see that he is ill-tempered and is at times too much of a perfectionist.
Chadwick Boseman is perfect in the lead role. His speaking voice is just like the real James Brown, and he commands the stage with his electric and erotic moves. Also strong is Dan Aykroyd. He plays Ben Bart, James’s loyal manager.
“Get on Up” is worth seeing for fans of music and biopics.