The Fog Of Funky History: Get On Up

Get On Up

I devoted way too much time to variations on the post title, it could have been the funky fog of history or the fog of funky film history but that's beside the point. But what would my posts be without any digressions? It's called style, baby, and this is mine, such as it is.

Now where the hell was I? Oh yeah, the new James Brown bio-pic Get On Up. I wanted to LOVE this movie but ended up liking it instead. There's much to admire. The acting is first rate, the music sequences are delirious and who among us wouldn't enjoy seeing a sweatsuit clad James Brown shoot a rifle at the ceiling of his own office building. Good gawd, y'all.

Chadwick Boseman as James Brown is phenomenal. He does the Godfather of Soul's speaking voice without sounding like Rich Little. He played Jackie Robinson in 42 so I wonder who's next: Frederick Douglas? WEB DuBois? Speaking of actors who've played historical figures (MLK in The Butler,) Nelsan Ellis does an excellent job in the thankless role of Bobby Byrd, JB's best friend and second banana. It's great to see my favorite True Blood actor featured in a major feature. The man sho can dance too. Good gawd, y'all.

Where Get On Up, slips up is with the script and format of the film. There were 4 writers credited, which usually means there were more including director Tate Taylor and the producers. That's a sign that there were too many cooks in the kitchen. In this case, this script is overcooked with flashbacks. Some of the cuts work fairly well but others are just flat-out confusing. A few reviews have called Get On Up, a predictable mainstream bio-pic, I wish it had more Hollywoodified: there are too many flashbacks and overly short scenes. Stretches of the film were like watching a livelier episode of Treme, alas.

As to historical accuracy, I'm not a James Brown expert but the flashback overkill made it chronologically confusing. The best thing I've seen about that aspect of Get On Up was written by Douglas Wolk for Slate. In the end, I'm not much of a stickler if it's close to the truth and entertaining. And that's where Get On Up excels, it's as entertaining as all get out. Good gawd y'all.

I've been a bit hard on Get Up On but I was frustrated when I left the theatre. It should have been a great film instead of a good one. The material was there but it needed to be organized better. I still give it 3 stars and/or an Adrastos grade of B. Go see if for Chawdick Boseman and the music. Good gawd, y'all.

I'll give the last word to the man himself with this clip from his appearance on the TAMI show in 1964, which was beautifully recreated in the movie:


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