“When I hit the stage, people better be ready, especially the white folk.”

Get On Up is a biopic on the ‘Godfather of Soul’ James Brown.

I didn’t know this film was something that existed until about two weeks before I saw it and judging by the small number of people in the audience when I saw it the day after it came out, neither did many other people.

This film alternates itself between showing the audience James’s turbulent childhood, the building of his career and its pinnacle.
Chadwick Boseman (soon to be playing The Black Panther in the marvel universe) plays the title role and does it with spectacular skill. The Telegraph called Boseman’s performance one with ‘wicked attitude’ and I feel the same. You don’t just hear and see James, you feel him. The performance seems seamless from the mannerisms to the voice – it is James. This performance accompanied by Nelsan Ellis (True Blood) who plays Bobby Byrd, one of the founders of James’s original group The Famous Flames and one of his closest friends, makes this film what it is.

The format of this film is in places uneven, some of it seems contrived and maybe a little cliché. At this point I should point out I went into this film knowing the music not the man, and according to the review posted by The Guardian I still don’t know him like I should. I’ve seen a number of comments, including that of the review posted by The Guardian, that suggests the plot of this film such points as his childhood, beating his wife and his constant bullying of his bandmates, is based on myth and rumour. I obviously cannot comment on a life I do not know and was not alive to witness through the media but I feel like although it felt like the plotlines of this film could have come from many other films it worked to build up the ‘character’ of James Brown. The method of the film showed how James became how he was until the end even if it is a little bumpy throughout.

For a film that’s major pull and major asset is its lead actor I think it’s a film that could hold its own as a biopic of a legendary music figure, however its publicity has been lacking. As I said at the beginning of this article, I didn’t even know that this film was being made and I’m a fan of the music so I would have paid attention if I’d have heard it was happening.

If you want two hours of a good time and a story that will pull you in and help you understand the man behind the music get yourself down the cinema and see Get on Up.

Go and learn about a legend.

And here’s the trailer:

Rachael Atkinson Millmoor


Header image: Get_on_Up_(film)