The story begins with a very young James Brown living in extreme poverty in Barnwell, South Carolina. His early life was a constant struggle dealing with harsh poverty and deeply flawed parents. When he found himself at a local church where music reigned supreme James Brown quickly started to build his way out of the cruel poverty leading him ultimately to becoming “The Godfather of Soul.” This is the story of life of James Brown; this is the story of “Get On Up” a new feature film in wide release.
A very strong pool of talent was brought together for this project but without question it is the star of the show Chadwick Boseman as James Brown who knocks it way out of the park. It is abundantly clear that Chadwick Boseman didn’t just learn about James Brown, in many ways for this film he became James Brown. Boseman’s performance absolutely deserves an Oscar nomination.
The story highlights the emergence of James Brown from his first huge hit “Please, Please, Please” to his super star status and ultimately earning the title of “Godfather of Soul.” You can’t help but to cheer on the struggling artist as he grew well beyond his humble beginnings. The steady inclusion of ever evolving James Brown music brings yet another level of entertainment to the film. However, along the way the story does reveal a less than beautiful side of the man.
His long time band “The Flames” confront him when even though on tour and making lots of money James Brown failed to pay his band. His reaction to their protest was essentially to conclude that he the mighty James Brown just really didn’t need his long time band anymore. By the end of the movie it seems that only lifelong friend Bobby Bird portrayed by Nelsan Ellis maintains a somewhat marginal relationship with James Brown.
At first you cheer as the young James Brown begins to find himself and explore the world of R & B and Soul music. But as his fame grows so it seems does his excessive cockiness. It made me think in some critical ways his very harsh past haunted him in strange ways throughout his life making his huge music world success and acclaim somewhat less significant because the cost to his personal life was just too high.
I do salute the film makers and in particular Director Tate Taylor for at least having the integrity to be honest with some dicey dialogue as it existed in the pre politically correct world. One example is that you actually hear a white man in the 1960’s actually speak what today we call the “N” word. In the time and place it was not called the “N” word. I am not supporting the word but I am saluting the folks who made the film for just being honest. In fact while I have not thoroughly researched the life and times of James Brown I did get the feeling that staying honest was a constant throughout the film. That element alone gives “Get On Up” a very strong positive rating in my book. “Get On Up” is effervescent with funk and the styling’s of James Brown. It is a lot of fun to watch. To learn more and even watch a trailer you may visit this link. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2473602/?ref_=nv_sr_1.
Copyright 2014 Ron Irwin