Get on Up (2014)

Chadwick Boseman in Get on Up (2014)

A Life in Flames

Chadwick Boseman stars as James Brown in this look at his life taking in being abandoned by his mother as a child, his time in prison for robbery, his friendship with manager Ben Bart (Dan Aykroyd) through to his battle to succeed and his various loves.

Made for those already in the know, it is a short phrase which once in a while I find myself jotting down when making notes for a review. Most of the time these words come to me when watching true story movies about crimes which have gained major media attention but some times I find them coming to me for some biopics. They came to me as I watched "Get on Up", the James Brown biopic, because at times, especially during a disjointed first half an hour, it felt like you needed to know James Brown's life story to get the movie.

Dan Aykroyd in Get on Up (2014)

Part of that issue comes from the choices with that first half flicking between various periods in James' life so we go from him performing as a star to his childhood and so on. But we also get Chadwick Boseman staring straight down the lens of the camera and start talking to it. For me these choices distract from the telling of the story although I can get why they were done, so that this isn't just another linear walk through biopic which lacks the flare which James Brown had in his lifetime.

Anyway, once you get through the disjointed build up "Get on Up" then evolves in to a more straight forwards biopic, taking us through the rise to fame, the conflict with his long time friends and so on. Along the way we see how he had a violent side even when it came to his wife and we also see how his ego started to get out of control. But we also see how for his flaws he also had greatness from trying to bring peace in a time of trouble when he performed following Martin Luther King's death to that friendship he had with Ben Bart who knew him better than anyone.

One thing though did impress me about "Get on Up" and that was the performance of Chadwick Boseman. Now I am no James Brown expert but not only does Boseman bring energy to his performance especially when doing the dance moves he also gives his characterisation depth so you get those moments where ego gives way to the conflict hiding beneath the facade of the showman.

What this all boils down to is that yes "Get on Up" entertained and I knew more about James Brown and his life when it was over than I did before I started watching. But at the same time there were some directional choices which for me made this disjointed and hard for those who watch without some background knowledge.