MOVIE OF THE WEEK #2 (8/1/14): GET ON UP

"It's a man's world ... Or more specifically, a world where I can play every successful black man who hasn't had a movie made about their life yet!" James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) hits the stage in a scene from director Tate Taylor's take on the life and legacy of the "hardest working man in show business," GET ON UP. Credit: © 2014 Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:



KEY CAST MEMBERS: Chadwick Boseman, Dan Aykroyd, Octavia Spencer, Craig Robinson, Viola Davis, Jill Scott, Tika Sumpter, Nelsan Ellis, Lennie James, Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter of the Roots,

WRITER(S): Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth (screenplay); Steven Baigelman, Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth (story)

DIRECTOR(S): Tate Taylor

WEB SITE: http://www.getonupmovie.com/

60 SECOND PLOT SYNOPSIS (OR AS CLOSE TO IT AS ONE CAN TRY TO MAKE): He's "The hardest working man in show business" ... He's "Mr. Dynamite" ... He's "The godfather of soul" ... But to the world, he was best known simply by his name: James Brown.

Directed by Tate Taylor of The Help fame, Get on Up stars Chadwick "don't call me Jackie Robinson anymore, please" Boseman as the legendary soul singer in a 2 hour, time-traveling opus that details the life and times of the man behind the famous voice and dance moves. Criss-crossing decades at various intervals, the film tells of his extremely hard, rural childhood in Georgia with his less-than-present mother Susie (Viola Davis) and hard-nosed father Joe (Lennie James) and how he ended up growing up under the "supervision" of his Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer). Likewise, the film goes on to detail how that childhood influenced the incident that led him to meeting his eventual best friend Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis), the way he handled his career with eventual business manager Ben Bart (Dan Aykroyd), some of his relationships with women like future wife DeeDee (Jill Scott) and the practices that proved his "hardest working" moniker wasn't just a nickname.

In doing so, Boseman and co. hope to show the world the highs, the lows and the lasting legacy of one of the greatest musical geniuses in music history.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST?: James Brown fans, people who were impressed by Boseman in 42, people who really enjoyed The Help, people who feel Bobby Byrd is under-appreciated musically, Cincinnati music history buffs, people who enjoy musical numbers

WHO WON'T – OR SHOULDN'T – LIKE THIS FILM?: People who didn't like The Help, people who don't like biopics where certain, less desirables aspects of someone's life feel glossed over, people who know little about Brown's musical influence

BOTTOM LINE – IS IT GOOD, GREAT, BAD OR DOWNRIGHT AWFUL? Despite a somewhat questionable choice to interweave different decades/moments of Brown's life, Get on Up shines with a performance that, while it may be unlikely to earn Boseman an Academy Award nomination, proves he can act – and not just imitate fellow famous African-Americans. 

WHAT'S GOOD (OR BAD) ABOUT IT? Boseman does something very key about 25 minutes into Get on Up, which in reality has nothing to do with him. It's just that at about that mark in the film, you forget someone is portraying James Brown and start to just embrace him as James Brown. Essentially nailing Brown's trademark voice which was always ripe for parody, Boseman never, ever portrays his subject in a comical fashion. Instead, he exudes the same charisma that was always on display for the public while doing his best to make you feel every painful emotion that came from a hardscrabble childhood and would occasionally rear itself as an adult. Youngsters Jamarion and Jordan Scott who portray Brown in some of his most painful childhood moments do a very commendable job at helping set the stage as well, but Boseman is the one who brings full circle.

While channeling Brown's personality and inner struggles effectively, Boseman is more impressive in the area many people will come into the film questioning and leave the film remembering most: Hitting, nailing and bringing back to life all of Brown's legendary moves. And for those who hold modern stars like Justin Timberlake, Usher and the always controversial Chris Brown in the highest esteem of dancing and performing, Boseman's performance will (or at least should) show the man from whom all of their moves originated.

Balancing all of the bravado and bluster boasted by Boseman's Brown is Ellis with a very solid turn in as Bobby Byrd, the best friend and confidant that even when their relationship is strained always has his best friend's interests at heart. While the women in Brown's life (save for Davis in a short but very important role) essential take a background seat in the film, Get on Up's cast never gets in the way of its protagonist's story.

As mentioned above, the two major flaws that keep the film from being perfect are the production team's non-linear storytelling and glossing over some of Brown's less favorable career moments. While the film many will undoubtedly compare Get on Up to (Ray for the uninitiated) went further into his subject's low points, Get on Up limits them, playing up the comedic aspect (at least in the beginning of it) of one of his most infamous in attempt to set a stage for a dramatic "everything comes full circle moment" later. The bigger problem many audiences likely will see, however, is the disjointed nature of the jumping decade to decade that permeates the first half of the film when a simple, linear approach might have made things feel more cohesive. Then again, given the sometimes non-cohesive actions of its subject, one can see why the choice to present the film that way was made ... Save for some moments such as Brown's Vietnam tour which feel like needless filler compared to moments like his Boston performance after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

That being said, you should surely Get on Up to the movies to see a film that pays homage as well as this does to one of the most influential people in the history of American – if not world – music.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN): 




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