By Darlene Donloe
Chadwick Boseman said he doesn’t want to become the guy who does all of the biopics on black people. One can’t blame him for that.
However, he is so good at playing real people like Jackie Robinson in the film, 42 and James Brown in his latest film, Get On Up, that he may have just gotten pigeonholed.
Get On Up is the behind the scenes story of, James Brown, the Godfather of Soul who is also affectionately known as the hardest working man in America. The film takes audiences on the journey from Brown’s impoverished childhood to his evolution into one of the most influential figures in music.
This movie may just catapult Boseman into the superstar stratosphere. He has proven he’s no fluke.
To his credit, Boseman doesn’t try to mimic Brown, instead he gives the audience the essence of the superstar. Boseman, looking good in costumes designed by Sharen Davis and nine wigs designed by consultant Robert Stevenson, has got some moves. He dances like Brown and most of all – he has Brown’s voice and cadence. He does a credible and impressive acting job. He literally doesn’t have a misstep. Boseman, who originally didn’t want to play the role, delivers a tour de force performance.
It’s no secret that Brown, who died in 2006 at the age of 73, had a troubled life. Even from the beginning he had a hard way to go. He lived in an abusive household where he was beaten by his father and eventually abandoned by his mother. He later lived in a brothel owned by his aunt before venturing out on his own. He landed in jail several times, was married several times, had a host of kids, was physically abusive, but never, ever, lost the music that was in him.
(l-r) Craig Robinson and Chadwick Boseman
James Brown lived and breathed music. To this day, no one can touch him. And, like he said himself once, you can’t name anyone in music who wasn’t influenced by the James Brown sound.
The movie, of course, has some holes. It’s difficult to tell a man’s life in a two-hour film. However, that being said, the film felt more than a bit disjointed. It was choppy and all over the place in its presentation. It bounces in and out of sequences. It felt like it wasn’t quite sure just what kind of film it wanted to be. It skips over some elements of Brown’s life, including his kids, wives and numerous arrests on domestic violence charges. At times the movie feels like a drama and then in the next frame feels like a comedy.
The film opens in 1988 when Brown reportedly fired a shotgun into the ceiling of one of his buildings, allegedly upset about folks using his bathroom. It then proceeds to mosey on down memory lane by taking us on a journey through Brown’s impoverished childhood and through his rise to stardom as one of the most influential artists in the 20th century. But the movie doesn’t present his life in order, which sometimes feels like the movie is rambling.
Some of the comedy arrives in Boseman’s deadpan looks in the camera. He also, occasionally, speaks straight into the camera. It’s rather comical.
Still, there are some amazing performances. Boseman is brilliant and will surely get a nod during awards season. Other standouts include the always impressive Viola Davis and Nelsan Ellis who plays Brown’s right hand man and best friend, Bobby Byrd.
Aside from Boseman, who shows up and shows out, the star of this movie is the music!!! You can’t sit still while watching it. You literally want to Get Up Off Of That Thing.
Get On Up stars Boseman, Davis, Ellis, Jill Scott, Octavia Spencer, Craig Robinson and Dan Aykroyd.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), Get On Up gets an O (OK).
Get On Up, in theaters nationwide Aug. 1, is directed by Tate Taylor (The Help) and written by John-Henry Butterworth, Jez Butterworth and Steven Baigelman.
The music is composed by Thomas Newman. It’s produced by Mick Jagger, Erica Huggins, Brian Grazer and Victoria Pearman.
There is also a soundtrack in support of the film.
It’s Rated PG-13, Running Time: 2h 18 min.
Go see Get On Up because The Funk Don’t Quit.