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[Movie Review] Get On Up (2014)

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Plot Summary: A chronicle of James Brown's rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.

Director: Tate Taylor

Writers: Jez Butterworth (screenplay & story), John-Henry Butterworth (screenplay & story), Steven Baigelman (story)

Runtime: 138 min

Main Cast:

  • Chadwick Boseman as James Brown
  • Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd
  • Viola Davis as Susie Brown
  • Octavia Spencer as Aunt Honey
  • Craig Robinson as Maceo Parker

Review: by Anthony and Lee

We may not know many James Brown songs, but we like the ones we do know.  So, we were excited to see Get On Up in hopes that we'd see some great singing and dancing.

Get On Up was a biopic, so it told the story of James Brown, from his meager beginnings to the height of fame.  The movie didn’t just give a chronological order of events in Brown’s life, however.  Instead, it focused on what made him a musical genius and The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.  It showed Brown’s struggle for control over all aspects of his life, his band, his music, promotion and management, his women and more, but, more than that, it showed why he craved that control.

Not one to tread lightly, Get On Up delved into the darker side of James Brown, not willing to sugarcoat either his life or his person.  It held nothing back when portraying his personality flaws and troubled relationships or his drug use and the dark past that formed it all.  However, the movie didn’t focus entirely on those aspects either, showing his incredible charisma and ability to move people as well as his affinity for his community and hopes for peace.

What We Liked:

We’ve only seen Chadwick Boseman in a few things, but we had high hopes for him in this role.  We were not disappointed.  He was easily the best part of the movie.  He became James Brown on that screen.  The make up, the wigs, and the clothes all worked together to perfectly complement his acting.  His dancing was great, and his ability to imitate James Brown’s speech pattern was spectacular.

Nelsan Ellis, who portrayed Brown’s right hand man Bobby Byrd, was more familiar to us because of his role on True Blood, and he was not to be overlooked.  His facial expressions seemed to emphatically express the perfect emotions for his scenes.  It seemed very genuine and heartfelt.  Mr. Byrd himself was a very interesting character, and we were glad to see Ellis do such a great job.

Also, though he had a small role, Brandon Smith was captivating as Little Richard.  The scenes with him in them were the best in the movie.  If the decision came down to do a Little Richard biopic, it would be a crime not to cast Smith as the lead.  One look he gave in the scene where he was at work, talking to Brown (Boseman), had me (Lee) nearly in tears and gasping for breath because it was so funny, entirely realistic too.  We would watch the hell out of that movie if it got made, by the way.

The musical numbers were also amazing.  The singing and dancing were absolutely delightful, and it was interesting to see how Brown’s life was so intimately woven into his performances.

What We Didn’t Like:

We really only had one issue with the movie, but it was a very major issue that affected our enjoyment of the entire movie.  Our problem with it was the method it used to tell the story.  It was extremely confusing.  Rather than taking the traditional approach to a biopic and telling the story chronologically, it jumped around in time, showing scenes from various different parts of his life.  Because there was no pattern to it or any even remotely chronological story, the scenes could not even be called flashbacks.  They flashed both backward and forward in time from a seemingly random starting point.

Even though some of the time jumps, either backward or forward, made sense because of their relationship to the subject matter, others were completely confounding.

Honestly, we could not even figure out why the movie began where it did.  Seriously, why was that scene even included?

Images Courtesy of IMDB

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