Sun Contributing Writer
James Brown. He was indeed super-bad in many ways.
“Get On Up” is a biography based on James Brown’s life. The story journeys through James’s childhood and adulthood. Despite having an impoverished childhood, he has a determined disposition that keeps him strong throughout his entire life. Needless to say, James perseveres.
Act I – 1988 in Augusta, Georgia
The biopic begins in 1988 in Augusta, Georgia with James driving to the Man’s World Enterprises Building that he owns. He enters the building and discovers that someone who is attending a seminar at his building has taken a dump in the bathroom. James becomes extremely annoyed because of this and demands to know who had the gall to take a dump in his bathroom. This sh-t is funny. No pun intended. After much torture to the attendees, James removes a shotgun from his truck and in the middle of his rant, forgets why he is so angry. He inadvertently shoots through the roof of his building. A high-speed police chase ensues.
Early Life of James Brown
The film retreats to 1939 when James and his mother, played by the remarkably talented Viola Davis, are frolicking in the backwoods near their cabin. James tells her that he is hungry. She dismisses him due to a lack of food and says to him that his hunger pangs are simply a spirit trying to make him laugh. She then tickles him.
James’s father, played by Lennie James, arrives home after being away for more than a week, and begins quarreling with his mother. James’s mother decides she would be better off without them and commences to leave the house. James’s father initially asks her to take James with her and she turns around in an attempt to retrieve him but is threatened by her husband and leaves without James. She walks away and begins a new life: a single and childless life.
James wonders off to the woods and comes in contact with a man who has been hanged to death. He takes the dead man’s fancy shoes off his feet and safely stores them away.
James father decides to join the army and delivers James to his Aunt Honey’s brothel and tells James to look after himself. Aunt Honey is played by the multi-award winner Octavia Spencer. Aunt Honey nurtures James and tells him that he is going to be rich one day and everybody will know his name.
Act II – The Turning Point in James Brown’s Life
At age 17, while wearing the fancy shoes that he took off the dead man’s feet when he was a young boy, James breaks a window and steals a three-piece suit, maybe to complement his shoes, and is subdued by the police and sentenced to five to 13 years in jail. While serving time in jail, he meets an aspiring gospel singer named Bobby Byrd, played by Nelsan Ellis. Bobby is a member of a gospel band that sings for the prisoners. He is very fond of James’s singing talent and persuades his mother to allow James to live with them as a means of getting out of jail sooner. James joins the gospel band, and this is the turning point in his life. An executive from King Records invites James and Bobby to Cincinnati to cut a record.
The movie goes back in time. James gets the attention of Little Richard, who is performing at a juke joint. Little Richard befriends James and gives him advice on how to make it in the music industry.
Act III – James Brown Goes Back to His Gospel Roots
The movie ends in 1993 when James visits Bobby Byrd, who has long severed ties with James. James invites Bobby and his wife to attend his upcoming concert. Bobby is very hesitant about attending the concert, and James is skeptical of his attendance.
Before going on stage, James reminisces about his life and says, “I paid the cost to be the boss.” James is delighted to discover that Bobby Byrd and his wife are in the audience. James redirects his band and sings the gospel song “Try Me” and it brings Bobby to tears.
While there are many fine actors who could have portrayed James Brown, this role was meant for Chadwick Boseman. He mastered James’s mannerisms. Chadwick is a phenomenal actor who also starred as Jackie Robinson in “42” – another great film. No one should be surprised if Chadwick is holding an Oscar on February 22, 2015.
Some of the other cast members include Tika Sumpter, who plays a professional back-up singer named Yvonne Fair. Though her role is somewhat minor, the super-talented actress puts her heart and soul in it.
The multi-talented Jill Scott stars as James’s second, sexy wife, DeeDee.
Dan Aykroyd, who James refers to as “Pops”, stars as his manager and good friend.
The hilarious Craig Robinson plays Maceo Parker, one of the band members.
I believe James would be very proud to see his life portrayed on the big screen.
The Godfather of Soul’s Style
From the singing, the splits, the spinning of the feet, to dancing with the microphones, there is no doubt that Prince, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger (one of the producers of the movie), and many other artists’ dance moves and singing styles originates from The Godfather of Soul, who was in a class by himself.
The Hardest Working Man in Show Business
It is no wonder why James Brown was dubbed “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business”, as he was a perfectionist and he demanded perfection from everyone in his camp.
A Must-See Movie
“Get On Up” is definitely a must-see movie. It gets five stars. So, Please, Please, Please Get Up Offa That Thing and get to a theater and treat yourselves to the incredible biopic. At two hours and eighteen minutes long, it is well worth the time.
Rest in Peace, Godfather.