SOUL POWER?

get_on_up_xlgBiopics are by their very nature formulaic and so it’s very hard to break out of that formula. If it’s someone in the music industry, it’s usually a story that starts with abject poverty, moves onto huge wealth and then ends in tragedy. Get On Up tells the story of the Godfather of Soul James Brown but director Tate Taylor (The Help) does try to play with the formula a little bit. Chadwick Boseman, the future Black Panther in Marvel’s forthcoming movie, plays the lead role as a larger-than-life man who managed to break out of his desperately poor South Carolina background to pull himself up by his bootstraps to become a  huge success in the world of popular music. Taylor injects some genuinely amusing scenes into proceedings, mostly keeping the tone light, which helps pass its two hours and twenty minute running time pretty effortlessly, and Boseman does have real charisma on screen, channeling the real James Brown with some skill. The director does move around from Brown’s childhood to his later life in a non-linear fashion but it does keep the structure a little more interesting. We see Brown in Vietnam, Brown being pursued by the police later in life and the singer making his name. There is an impressive supporting cast that includes Dan Aykroyd as his manager Ben Bart and Nelsan Ellis as his right hand man Bobby Byrd. Brandon Smith as Little Richard, who Brown encounters early on his career too, puts in an impressive performance too. The film is produced by Mick Jagger and there is a knowing but entertaining scene where Brown is seen supporting the Rolling Stones, a band that he dismisses as being a flash in the pan. Some of the more negative aspects of Brown’s life like his violence towards women is skirted around but mostly Get On Up is an accomplished and likeable biopic of a major player in music. Boseman is obviously an actor to watch and this film will help increase his profile…

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