I can’t really ‘spoil’ a movie about the life of James Brown, can I?
I’m in my ‘peak period’ of introspection as some of you know, so on the way home I was comparing filmmaking to life in general (just go with me for a minute). When you have a good thing, don’t mess it up. Know when to be patient and when to go for the kill. Have fun.
So, when we talk about music biopics as a genre, I think at all costs you need the original music (so I’m already setting myself up for disappointment with 3000 as Jimi Hendrix); musician or not, it’s probably better for all parties if the subject is dead (even the best of us get uncomfortable seeing our flaws played out as ‘entertainment’ for the masses), and you know, it’s still a movie right? So be cinematic at points.
With that lead in, I think Get On Up is as well done as a studio genre pic can be in the current climate.
Chadwick Boseman (’42’) takes on another iconic brother from history in the Godfather of Soul. AND HE NAILS IT! The first scene most of the audience naturally laughed cause it did feel like a really good James Brown impression. But as the film unfolds, it feels less like an over the top impression and more like James Brown. That was the way he talked, that was the way he danced, and I don’t think any of us will deny that the man was larger in life in every way possible. The second of the film’s many strong points was in showing (but not dwelling) on each part of the icon: the hair, the heavy gospel influence, the Flames.
I don’t think ‘America’ knows Chadwick by name (yet), so the next set of major props goes to how many ‘faces’, as actors in the film, we get. Craig Robinson, Black Thought, Jill Scott (we all agree she is the sexiest ‘big girl’ of all time right?), Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer. Not to mention the brother who stole his scenes as young Little Richard, and the quick nod to the Stones in the first act (I know Mick Jagger has his hand in this, but it’s not overplayed).
My only problem with the film to be honest is that it stuck so close to the genre sometimes. James Brown (and his music) is so contagious and charismatic; obviously he’s human like the rest of us, but the few moments where the film went to drama felt either underdeveloped or like a studio note (i.e. ‘James Brown is/was one of the most beloved entertainers ever, make sure you throw some ‘jerk’ scenes in there, dammit!’)
That’s small potatoes though. If you like James Brown or any of his songs (which is I’m guessing 98% of you), Get On Up is one you should see.