The musician biopic is a difficult one to execute, not only because of the varied perceptions of the individual and/or band, but if they were highly successful, how do you tell their story correctly without doing them a disservice? Get On Up tells the story of James Brown, the infamous Godfather of Soul, who rose from abject poverty to superstardom using his incredible talent. Thankfully this is not a misfire, and a film well worth seeking out.
It is a turbulent ride to the top, with personal challenges in the form of his immediate family and professional obstacles in his ability to manage the business side to his career. Not to mention the period in which he became highly successful was also the period of radical change in the form of the Civil Rights Movement, but as we are shown it’s these factors that made him such an enigma.
Chadwick Boseman embodies James Brown, nailing his dance moves and persona, further amplified by the dubbing over of the incredible mix of live audio from actual James Brown performances. He elevates the film from your standard musical biopic, and takes this movie from an average one, glossing over key moments in his life, to a good one, where it feels like you are watching the real deal. Although something can be said for the attempt by Tate Taylor to actually touch upon some of the more controversial moments of his life, when compared to one of the more recent music based films like Straight Outta Compton.
The story is told in a way that may annoy some people, chopping back and forth on the timeline between the past and present day, but it serves its purpose for creative storytelling, and avoids the simple life story approach more suited to a documentary. Regardless, it cannot detract from the central performance and the engrossing music. If you’ve watched Love & Mercy, Straight Outta Compton and the plethora of music based documentaries released last year and need a fix from an old(er) film, get onto Get On Up – I’m pretty sure you will get that soundtrack downloaded afterwards too. What a talent.