Monday, August 18, 2014

Get On Up

(from New

(Chadwick Boseman)

Chadwick Boseman's first leading movie roles have been as Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get On Up, which we saw yesterday.  So where does he go from here to top these roles?  Boseman is remarkable in Get On Up.  Physically bearing little resemblance to Brown he captures the persona, the speech, the look and the dynamic singing and dancing of The Godfather of Soul in a performance that is precisely the opposite of what was called for in his role as Jackie Robinson.

Boseman is aided by a touching performance from Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd, his long time (and suffering) friend, and Dan Ackroyd as manager Ben Bart.
(both pix from
Best of all there is a lot of James Brown music and performances that are recreated and fully capture the experience of seeing him in his prime.  These are some of the finest movie recreations THC has ever seen of any performer.  It also takes the time to show some of the detail of how Brown invented modern funk in one of my favorite scenes (and here's the first true funk song - Cold Sweat, Pt. 1 (1967)).  The thrilling performance scenes are, in part, attributable to Mick Jagger, who served as a producer and was heavily involved in the musical aspects of the film.

The movie jumps around time wise, which is a good touch and shows the extreme poverty in which Brown was raised in the Georgia of the 1930s and early 1940s as well as his horrible home life but this is not exactly the normal redemptive story arc of many biopics.  Brown was certainly a brilliant artist but is portrayed as someone who, throughout his life, you would not want to be in a relationship with nor be a musician working for him.  He treated a lot of people very poorly. 

There are some awkward and dragging standard biopic scenes in the film but Boseman's performance and the music scenes make Get On Up well worth seeing.

For those who haven't seen much of James Brown at his peak, this is his legendary performance at the T.A.M.I. show in 1964, performing for a mostly white audience.  The Rolling Stones had to close the show after this performance which was the first time Brown and Jagger met.  If you don't have time to watch the entire 18 minutes, start the video at about the 13 minute mark and watch it from there.  The duo introducing Brown are Jan & Dean, known for their hits The Little Old Lady From Pasadena and Surf City.

(Brown & Jagger, backstage at TAMI)

And here you can watch a more mellow Brown performing a duet on It's A Man's World with Luciano Pavarotti about ten years ago shortly before both of them passed away. 

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