This evening we went to see the James Brown bio-pic, Get On Up, starring Chadwick Boseman as James Brown. It must be said that despite James Brown’s checkered past, I have always been a huge fan of his music. I grew up in the 50’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s and he truly is the Godfather of Soul in my mind. This movie goes back and forth in time, which is a technique that is interesting in some ways and irritating in others, but it manages to convey one basic truth about James Brown: his childhood experiences forced him to learn to depend solely on himself to “get on up” in life.
Chadwick Boseman embodies James Brown, particularly his swagger, his charm and his dance moves. I understand that he is lip-synching Brown’s lyrics, but this fact does not call attention to itself. What does stand out is the superb way that Boseman conveys Brown’s musical genius, personal charisma, as well as his often hard-edged approach to life.
I do not think this is a perfect film. The time shifts sometimes are slightly confusing and there are moments when staying in the scene versus shifting to an earlier time would have been preferable. However, is it entertaining? Absolutely. Is it inspiring? Definitely. Will you be glad you saw it? I will be surprised if you are not.
James Brown has long been a controversial character, prone to extreme behavior, but this movie clearly seeks to convey the best of him: his extreme musical talent. There is no question that Brown had a vision of what kind of music he believed people needed and wanted to hear and he made that happen by trusting his natural talent to guide the process. He states in the film that his music is in all the artists that have come after him and there may be real truth to that. He has not been deemed the Godfather of Soul for nothing, after all.
I highly recommend this movie, and I believe Chadwick Boseman will be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. If he’s not, then there better be some serious performances out there to knock him out of the competition since he is bringing his serious A game to this film. If you love James Brown’s music, then this is an absolute must-see. Even if you’re too young to know exactly what a profound influence James Brown has had on modern musicians, then you should come see this film so that you have a better understanding of the history of “Soul” music. Whatever the case, I would encourage you to support this movie. It’s worth your time and attention and you may just come out having a deeper respect for James Brown than you would have ever expected.
So get on out to see Get On Up, then come back and let me know what you think.