MOVIE REVIEW: Get On Up: The James Brown Story

"I love when a movie explains the WHY of someone."-Viola Davis on Get On Up

I just got back a few hours ago from seeing Get On Up, the story of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. I heard that this movie was in production a long while ago, and have been excited every since, watching interviews, sneak peeks and trailers as often as I could.
I saw it at 9:30 in the morning, because I really do hate opening weekend crowds, so I try to go when it'll be less crowded and less crazy. The movie theater was still pretty full, but quiet and still thank God, as we all watched and were mesmerized as Mr. Brown's life shined across the screen, thanks to Chadwick Boseman.

I LOVE Chad, and have for quite some time, even before 42 (the Jackie Robinson Story) came out. It hit me when I finally got the chance to see it that I had seen him before... in Lincoln Heights, which was big on ABC Family from 2007-2009. Even then, as he played a soldier suffering from PTSD who was also the son of the main character towards the end, I noticed his talent...and his good looks, of course (*smiles*)! But mostly his talent, I promise!

Chad's done other films and shows, but I guarantee that 42 and Get On Up will be two of his most talked about works for the rest of his career, and I'll tell you why. In both films, he truly became the people he played. In Get On Up, you can tell that he worked his tail off to truly embody who Mr. Brown was to music and to the world, from his feel-good funk music, his legendary dance moves and stage presence, to his childhood demons that almost broke him down for good. From age 17 to age 60, Chad didn't just play James Brown, he BECAME James Brown, and that's what made this movie so good and interesting to watch.

The film mostly is told in order, but, at certain moments, has flashbacks to Mr. Brown's childhood that explains not only how he was influenced by music and came to create his own musical style, but also explains why he struggled with his relationships with others as he got older. For example, and I'll try not to tell too much, Mr. Brown seems to have felt like, regardless of who was around, he was still on his own, even with his close friendship with singer Bobby Byrd (played by Nelsan Ellis, who is a great actor as well). This stems from both his mother (played by Viola Davis) and father essentially abandoning him, leaving him to fend for himself with his Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer) and make it to where he wants to be. Aunt Honey encourages him, telling him that, in spite of his mama being a "no account fool," and his daddy too, God told her that one day, EVERYBODY was going to know his name. I believed that truly pushed him to want better for himself in the long run, and look where he made it to!

The film, directed by Tate Daniels, did a great job of creating a well rounded film, showcasing a little bit of everything within this man's history from his small start in music down in Augusta, Georgia, his rise to fame with the Famous Flames, takeover as "Mr. Dynamite," and "Soul Brother No. 1," but also his downfalls, like his eventual financial issues, the death of his son Teddy in a car accident, as well as his later drug abuse, infamous car chase, and jail sentence. Chad also breaks the fourth wall a good deal through the film, speaking to or looking directly at the movie audience at times, which can sometimes work really well or really terribly. In this instance, to me, it made me feel even more connected.

Many will nitpick that the movie didn't go into detail about James Brown's drug use, and, I'll admit, part of me wanted to see exactly how it was that he came to turn around and overcome his demons in full. However, with a story like this, where you have years and years of history to get through, everything can't be laid out like you may want. I think that Tate Daniels, the writers, and editors did a great job fitting the gist of this great artist's story into two hours and 18 minutes.

This definitely had a star-studded cast, with Viola, Nelsan, and Octavia (who, by the way, acted together in The Help, which was also directed by Tate), and also included Dan Aykroyd, Jill Scott, Tika Sumpter, Craig Robinson, and more. Of course, Chad stood out on his own, and is truly making a name for himself in Hollywood. I truly believe that he will do great things come award season. I'm pretty sure he will be nominated for an Oscar, or at least he should. Not sure if he'll win, but the nomination is definitely well deserved!

I give this film (four out of five stars).

Be sure to see Get On Up in theaters NOW!

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