I had an idea that the story of James Brown was going to be good, it had to be, being the story of “The Godfather of Soul,” but this film was more than good, it is FUNKY!
The film begins with James Brown right before he is arrested in Augusta, Georgia for firing a shotgun and evading police. The film then bounces back and forth throughout time, somewhat in the way James Brown’s feet would move when he danced across the stage.
There is one main reason why this film works; Chadwick Boseman. He channeled James’s spirit, attitude, speech, and splits. I can’t imagine anyone else who could take this role and not allow it to intimidate him. From the first frame to the last we see James Brown.
The supporting cast does just that, support. It is truly an ensemble that came together to lift up and helped Chadwick give a solid performance, therefore, making a soulful film.
Viola Davis as James’s mom, gives a performance that makes you shed tears. I loved Octavia Spencer as Aunt Honey, the woman who raised and encouraged James, in her own way. Jill Scott as one of James’s wives worked her part.
However, there were a few performances that stuck out with me and I am sure will be overlooked but were the salt and pepper of the film for me. Jamarion and Jordan Scott played the young boy James Brown or “Junior.” These young men were the first we see of James confidence and love of music. They opened the door, allowing us to see into the heart of James Brown.
The other actor we see often but may not know his name, it’s Nelsan Ellis who plays James’s best and really only true friend, Bobby Byrd. We all heard James Brown yell out the name “Bobby!” but who was he? I am a major fan of Nelsan and he never disappoints in whatever role he takes. In “Get on Up” he makes us understand Bobby and the relationship he had with James and his loyalty. Without that we really don’t see the real James Brown.
Hats off to screenwriters Steven Baigelman, John-Henry Butterworth and Jez Butterworth for bring this story to life is such a creative way; and to director Tate Taylor (The Help) for having the insight to cast Chadwick as James Brown and putting together an outstanding cast.
Get on the good foot and dance to your nearest theater and SPEND THE MONEY to see “GET ON UP” at the theaters.