Friday, August 1, 2014

Get On Up

Ahhhhh, I feel good, nanananananana...etc. Not bad. Not bad at all. Chadwick Boseman (42, Draft Day) plays James Brown in the biopic , which, for once, is close enough to the true story to be worth seeing. Boseman does a fabulous job following in the huge footsteps of Gretchen Mol in Bettie Page,  Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis, Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash,  Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, and Will Smith as Mohammed Ali.  Boseman sings the songs and dances the dance, and he is phenomenal. I think that it is of note that Nelsan Ellis (everybody's favorite Lafayette on True Blood) is fantastic as Byrd, Brown's sort of whipping boy who was a performer in his own right but was sabotaged in real life by Brown just to keep Byrd in the background. Only once or twice did I think "Hey there's Lafayette", which means he was doing a great job. I would not be surprised to see Ellis nominated for Best Supporting Actor- he highly deserves it.  Yet again, the white man is evil- and the film tries at least to compensate for it by painting an overly sentimentalized version of Brown's manager, Ben Bart- played by Dan Ackroyd. By the time Bart died, Brown and Bart weren't on the best of terms, even  though Bart was certainly a father to Brown in many ways.  Knowing the horrors of Brown's childhood and adolescence, it is reasonable to assume that we are lucky he was only a quasi-violent, wife beating entertainer as opposed to a mass murderer. There is almost no way a person could have that sort of beginning and not pay for it the rest of his life. But James Brown tried- and in many ways, he succeeded.  It certainly is a movie that leaves you wondering if James Brown would have been greater had he not had such a hard childhood, or would he have become nothing without it.