Get On Up

"Very Good"

Get On Up Review


With an appropriately jarring sense of energy, this James Brown biopic acutely captures the Godfather of Soul's iconic musical talents, although the fragmented script undermines any emotional kick in his story. The film also struggles to build up momentum, because it continually leaps between various chapters in Brown's life. Which means that it never quite connects these disparate episodes into one coherent narrative. Even so, Chadwick Boseman delivers an electrically charged central performance.

Boseman plays James from the time he was 16, thrown into prison for stealing a suit in 1949, until his comeback in the 1990s. Raised in a brothel run by his Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer) after his parents (Viola Davis and Lennie James) abandoned him, James is in prison when he meets visiting gospel singer Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis), who takes him in on his release. Together they form The Famous Flames, gaining small-time success as James catches the eye of a manager (Dan Aykroyd), a record executive (Fred Melamed) and the public. A string of major hits followed in the 1950s and 60s, then James went solo in the 70s before the usual issues of fame caught up with him: money, drugs and guns. But he returned to the stage in the 1990s.

The film completely skips over his Hollywood years in the 80s, which wouldn't be a problem if the decade was so notably missing from the film. As the story skips back and forth through the years, the audience is forced to make sense of the disparate scenes, filling in several holes along the way. Aside from one rather surreal scene in a Southern Gospel church, there's never much of a sense of how Brown found his voice or developed his inimitable style. It also never quite captures his impact on the music industry as a whole.

On the other hand, this is a terrific celebration of Brown's music. And in a role that spans 40 years, Boseman delivers an astoundingly physical performance that explodes with charisma. The most resonant relationship in the film is his loyal but strained connection with Byrd, played with open-handed emotion by Ellis. Director Tate Taylor (The Help), adds plenty of artistic flourishes that weave the music into each sequence. So even if the various parts of the film never gel together dramatically, they create an eye-popping and toe-tapping collage about an artist who defied expectations and still has a major influence on the music world.



Get On Up

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 139 mins

In Theaters: Friday 1st August 2014

Box Office USA: $30.5M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Jagged Films, Universal Studios, Imagine Films Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 115 Rotten: 29

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Tate Taylor

Producer: , , , Victoria Pearman

Starring: as James Brown, as Bobby Byrd, as Susie Brown, as Syd Nathan, as Baby Roy, as Aunt Honey, Nick Eversman as Mick Jagger, as Yvonne Fair

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