Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Get On Up Review

James Brown, the godfather of soul. Being perfectly honest, I'm actually not too familiar with James Brown or his music. Or at least I wasn't before I went into this movie. I don't know if that makes me an outcast in all social circles or if I will be stoned for admitting that I am not familiar with James Brown. That said, at least I am honest right? Either way, this review will be from the perspective of someone who wasn't familiar with James Brown going in. I could've researched him or listened to his music before seeing this, but I decided that I didn't want to. I wanted to see if this movie could provide me some good quality entertainment without me knowing much about the man going in. My hope is that at least one or two people would appreciate this perspective. This is star Chadwick Boseman's second biopic role in as many years and while I admit that I enjoyed the movie 42 more than this, Get On Up is succeeds in being a very enjoyable movie.

The approach that Get On Up takes is a fairly unique one. The movie is all over the place. And I don't mean that in a negative way, I mean that in a factual way. This is very much so not in chronological order. We start out towards the end of Brown's life in an instance where he is pretty messed up. Then we jump to the middle of his life where he is super famous, performing tons of shows. Then we jump to his childhood. This all done within the first ten minutes or so. The rest of the movie is presented in puzzle fashion, meaning we keep jumping all over the place from beginning to middle to end till we finally have the whole picture of James Brown's life. Some instances we even cut away mid-scene to a different point in his life and as it goes on, you begin to wonder if it is going to finish that specific story line or just leave it hanging. Luckily all loose ends are tied up and you are left with a pretty well-rounded picture that makes you feel happy in the end, so for the most part this style works out.

However, there is an aspect of this that doesn't work out as well. That's the fact that there isn't a whole ton of story in this movie to tell. I would gestimate that there is about 30 minutes of story in this and 100 minutes of concert or concert rehearsal. This makes this style of telling this story almost necessary because they weave this 30 minutes of movie in with the concert scenes. Thus we get a bit of story, then concert, then a bit more story somewhere else in his life, then concert, and so on and so forth. For the most part this worked, but as I was going I began to think that it was almost as if someone wanted to do a biopic of James Brown because he is a huge influence in the movie world, but as they started they realized that they didn't have much to work with and so for the most part we just get James Brown music. The fact that I really enjoyed the music did make it worthwhile, but it also made it so the movie wasn't quite as epic as other recent biopics such as 42 and Lee Daniels' The Butler, both from last year.

The big tipping point in making this movie worthwhile was the amazing cast, which of course is led by Chadwick Boseman as James Brown. While it is kind of odd that Boseman has played two biopic roles so close to each other, he was great in both so I'm not complaining. I suppose studios have noticed that if they want to do a biopic of a famous black person from the civil rights era, he's their man to turn to. Because really, he is quite fantastic as James Brown. There's been very early chatter of Boseman potentially getting an Oscar nomination for this role and if that happened, I would not be complaining. In addition to Boseman, though, there is a great supporting cast. The movie is from the same director as The Help and I did notice that there is a good number of cast members in this movie that were also in that one, namely Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Nelsan Ellis. Also in related to the cast, I was super impressed with the hair and makeup in this movie. Boseman has so many different hairstyles throughout the movie, as does everyone else in the band, and it's impressive. Also, as they jump back and forth from younger James Brown to older James Brown, Boseman does actually look older and younger. Some movies try to make the actors look older and simply fail (yeah I'm looking you you Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 -- old versions of Harry, Ron and Hermione were terrible), but this one actually succeeds.

Overall, I can't officially make a claim for what fans of James Brown would think of this movie. I don't know how historically accurate this is to what actually happened in James Brown's life. If there are parts that are way off, I wouldn't know at all because I haven't done the research to compare. I also don't know if it was Boseman actually singing the part as opposed to just lip-synching and if so how his voice compares to James Brown's music. I could do all that research, but I don't really care to. All I know is that I went into this movie without knowing much about James Brown in hopes that I could still enjoy this movie and I did. The acting was great, especially by Boseman. The music was great. The story that did exist was emotional and moving while the concert scenes that dominated the movie were also enjoyable. If you are a big James Brown fan I think you would like this? But if you are like me and aren't familiar with him, I still think you will enjoy this. My grade for Get On Up is a 7.5/10.

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