Get On Up movie review

by Kate “One Take Kate” Taylor
Image via: Mr Leon Taylor

Get ready for an amazing bio-pic that’s one part concert film, one part historical memoir but all wonderfully woven together to create an uplifting journey through the life of James Brown, played expertly by Chadwick Boseman – who’s splits training regime alone, must of been intense. Boseman (‘42’) is magnificent, bringing a human, even tender side to one of the most recognised figures of music history. While director Tate Taylor has lapped his Academy Award studded and nominated work in The Help and I imagine Get On Up will be getting some recognition from the little gold statue brigade come 2015 too. James Brown has always been a larger than life character from my perspective; and this is a gritty look at Brown’s highs and also his crushing losses and defeats. Chadwick’s portrayal of ‘The Godfather of Soul’ is well accomplished, taking us from Brown’s tough-is-an-understatement childhood, to his burgeoning status with The Famous Flames, to the height of his funky powers, through to his 1993 national US tours; dished out in a dizzying yet slick narrative that dances back and forward through time as 1993 real-time Brown approaches the stage door, pre-performance. Taylor brings a lot of his The Help cast along for the ride on this one, especially with the quality pairing to Boseman brought by Nelsan Ellis, playing Bobby Byrd, friend and band mate to Brown. 

Ben Bart (Aykroyd) assures James Brown (Boseman) that his hair is at the correct level of badassery (Image via)
Ellis portrays Byrd with an earnestness that could come from his ability to spend time with the source of his character; as the real Byrd worked as ahistorical consultant on the production of this film. Dan Aykroyd…ahh Dan Aykroyd, he can’t really do much wrong on film by this 80s kid and still he turns in a moving and fun performance. Love, love, love him as Ben Bart. Viola Davis stings as James’s mother Susie; Octavia Spencer is superb as ‘Aunt Honey’ who helps the young James to find his way in the world. Jill Scott shines as Mrs DeeDee Brown, holding up the marital mirror to Browns’ unbelievable life. Jamarion and Jordan Scott play young James and are absolutely incredible, taking on a shared role that contains some very graphic and confronting moments of American history, portraying a part without any romanticised notions – this is real ‘just how it was back then’ stuff. In the film’s wildly electric ‘live’ performance scenes we’re transported into the front row, to a concert hyper reality where all the funk is magnified tenfold…magnetic! Keep your eyes peeled for movie versions of Frankie Avalon, Little Richard (ah-mazing), The Rolling Stones (Mick’s a Producer on this flick after all!) and Bootsy Collins; with great performances by Craig Robinson as Maceo Parker and Aloe Blacc as Nafloyd Scott too. An absolute must see bio-pic; make sure you see it somewhere with a BIG sound system. You thought you knew him but, meet the ‘real’ James Brown. Whatever you do…don’t use his private bathroom.
Academic Area: Breaking the fourth wall.

Ahh so fun! If you’ve not heard the term ‘Breaking the fourth wall’ before, get ready for something fun, cause you’re going to know exactly what I’m talking about. ‘Breaking the fourth wall’ is when a character in a play or film will share a look with or speak directly to the audience; this comes from the idea that when you look at a screen or the set of a play you see three sides forming the space the actors occupy, leaving the fourth wall as being us, the audience. When a character acknowledges the audience, either by clever dialogue to other characters or even by looking directly into the camera – they are breaking the fourth wall. Get On Up has some truly amazing parts where Chadwick Boseman 

allows James Brown to breakthe fourth wall in some very poignant and also totally kickass moments, reaching out to audiences across the globe again and speaking directly to them. Some other ‘breaking the fourth wall’ moments you might enjoy for example are in Home Alone or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Breaking the fourth wall is in narrative real time generally, but in some films and TV there is occasional fourth wall breaking, in and out of narrative and Meta time – think Quantum Leap or the antics of Abed in Community.



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