REVIEW: Get On Up is captivating, funky and groovy!
Captivating, funky, groovy, entertaining, eccentric are not just synonyms attributed to The Godfather of Soul, Mr Dynamite – James Brown but also to his biopic - 'Get On Up' in which we see Chadwick A. Boseman impeccably plays Mr. Brown to perfection - making it difficult for the audience to not fall in love (again) with James' Brown music and his talent. Boseman doesn't exist outside of the character, he is the character as he fully embodies the spirit and energy of James Brown, having mastered Brown's quirks, mannerisms, strutting, dancing, and even his raspy fast talk ways.
The film commences in a grand manner, with the Godfather of Soul preparing to go on stage for a final time (in the movie). The moving spotlight on James Brown, paired with the chanting of the crowd, desperate and impatient to be floored by his talent definitely prepares the viewer for what’s to come - the epic yet turbulent gift that was Mr Dynamite. Though we're familiar with his famous, legendary and timeless hits such as 'I Got You', 'This is a Man's World', ' Say it Loud (I'm Black and Proud) and 'Soul Power', we get to find out where his journey as James Brown, Mr Brown - the show business begins, in a recording sessions in 1956 with The Famous Flames where we see him desperately croon 'Please, Please, Please', a rock 'n' roll ballad to a record executive who is quick to dismiss him but who is then swayed by Brown's manager (Dan Aykroyd) to focus on the man singing as he insists that 'it's not [about] the song'.
The sequenced several unchronological flashbacks as directed by Tate Taylor (The Help) are at first disorientating, but serve to introduce us to some of the most significant moments of Brown’s life which helps to conclusively paint our own picture of the maestro. Starting with his performance to the troop in Vietnam (1968) having stepped off a burning plane, to him stealing the stage from Little Richard as he performed ‘Caledonia’ with The Famous Flames in 1955, a look into his impoverished childhood and the abusive relationship with his parents (which we see Brown reenact in adulthood) in Augusta, Georgia, are offered as glimpses to better understand his ‘loner’, even arrogant attitude towards those working for him and his abusive behaviour towards his second wife Deedee Jenkins (Jill Scott).
As entertaining, groovy and enamouring Mr Brown’s funk and footwork may be, GET ON UP fails to illustrate a holistic picture of Brown’s life. The biopic is unbalanced in its portrayal of Brown as it focuses more on his musical achievements/political influence rather than his troubles. Even his rashness as an employer is something that is excusably portrayed, clearly executed to paint Brown as a ‘troubled' maestro, with flaws that one shouldn’t allow to overshadow his genius and impact. Perhaps rightfully and uncritically so because his talent, eccentricity and gall as an artist has come to greatly influence and produce some of the best artists (Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger) and sounds of not just the 20th century, the 21st century and certainly of many more decades to come.
The feature promisingly captures the essence of James Brown in a celebratory manner and undeniably so, is a reminder that he was The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, onstage with performance skills and a voice that will always be unique to him.
GET ON UP hits UK cinemas on September 26th. It is a must-see!