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Get On Up Review: A New Structure of an Old Formula

Get On Up (film)

Rating:
Star3
Star
Star
Star
Star

James Brown was certainly one of the most unique artists in the history of music. His music absolutely makes people want to ‘get on up’ and dance. There is a certain formula to bio pics for musicians. There are the humble beginnings and childhood traumas that affected adult life, the struggle to make it, early friendships and romantic relationships that sour with commercial success., financial-taxes- trouble due to excessive living, ect. Get on Up (directed by Tate Taylor) is very non-linear in its story telling. The first scene takes place in 1988. It works to establish Mr. Brown’s state of mind rather than connect to the rest of the story.
James Brown himself isn’t presented is a particularly sympathetic light in this film- at least not beyond his childhood where he was the victim of his parents selfish actions (perhaps as a result of their extreme poverty). He seems to learn the lesson of taking care of himself from them. Throughout the film he shown to be willing to use people and throw them out. More than once in the film, he claims that he did everything himself, which the audience can clearly see is not true. His best friend Bobby Byrd, for example, bailed him out of jail in what could have been a sentence that was longer than a decade. James Brown proceeded to seduce and throw out Byrd’s sister (an action Byrd covered for), take the lead position in the band The Famous Flames then leaves them behind when he signs a breakthrough record deal. Bobby Byrd comes across as a saint compared to James Brown, heck a saint period!
The film seems to present Mr. Brown’s state of mind more than his life story. Many of the scenes are isolated and chronologically out of order with no apparent connection to the scenes that precede or follow. James Brown Periodically breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience suggesting that he has been telling the story and skipping around the whole time. His wife and children feel like little more than props in the film, suggesting he isn’t much better at family life than his parents, he just had a lot more money. There is a scene in the film that normally serves as the climax or final scene in musical biopics, but the film goes on another 20-30 minutes beyond that. Brains have been trained for decades to think films should end at that point so it makes Get on Up feel excessively long. The music of James Brown and the performances from the cast make the film worth watching. Chadwick Boseman certainly shows versatility as an actor. He can play a likeable and sympathetic person like Jackie Robinson or a much less likeable self involved person like James Brown. This writer would probably watch this film on Netflix or buy the DVD.