Get On Up makes viewers want to mimic James Brown’s energy


Kat Shambaugh

Editor-in-chief Alicia became obsessed with the James Brown biopic, or perhaps just Chadwick Boseman.

Alicia Bush, Editor-in-chief

During interviews with Chadwick Boseman, who played legendary hall of famer Jackie Robinson in 42, the break-out actor maintains a humble persona with light chuckles and frequent grins at reporters.  But to perform as the iconic and influential James Brown, Boseman swapped humility for haughtiness and left it all on the dance floor.

In James Brown’s biopic Get On Up, Boseman evolved into “the hardest working man in show business” with only glossy wigs, impressive choreography, and a realistic accent to exceed all expectations of the role. He embodies bravado, confidence, and southern charm, which helped him claim the title of  “Godfather of Soul.” From his staggering strut to the way he grips the microphone and drops to his knees, Boseman skillfully awakens the legendary performer and proves himself a credible actor.

In this beautifully flawed, structureless film, brother screenwriting-duo Jez and John-Henry Butterworth jampacked a rich and famous life into 138-minutes of shock and amazement. Directed by Tate Taylor (The Help), the film displays Brown’s mother (played by Viola Davis) abandoning him and his abusive father (Lennie James) shipping him to his brothel-running Aunt Honey’s (Octavia Spencer) home.

The audience also sees Brown during his teenage years where he steals a 3-piece suit and lands himself in jail. After meeting lead singer of the The Famous Flames Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis), Brown gets released and joins the Flames. After taking over the band and later starting a solo career, Brown’s headstrong characteristics lead him to drugs and domestic abuse of second wife Deidre “DeeDee” Brown (Jill Scott), which the film only captures in tiny intervals.

Scenes frequently flash between Brown’s childhood and adulthood, seemingly at the most inopportune times; however, between each interval, the audience catches a deeper glimpse of what molded Brown’s existence. And although certain scenes felt underdeveloped, which leaves the audience in a frenzy at times, the film revolutionizes just as Brown’s image did. Aside from the recurring flashbacks, the frequent use of asides feels somewhat awkward.

The cast’s characterization, covered in passion and professionalism, shines in this particular film. Many agree that Boseman’s performance as Brown supercedes Jamie Foxx’s performance as Ray Charles in the 2007 biopic Ray. While Boseman is considered the star, Ellis also brilliantly plays a loyal friend, regardless of Brown’s shenanigans. The script also possesses several classic and humorous lines to make the viewing enjoyable.

Overall, Get On Up showcased an exemplary production with some of Hollywood’s most talented individuals. After two successful biopics, Boseman proves worthy of more roles and numerous awards to come.

The Chant’s grade: A-