Get on Up (2014) Movie Review

Director: Tate Taylor

Writer: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth (Screenplay) Steven Baigelman, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth (Story)

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Lennie James, Fred Melamed, Craig Robinson, Jill Scott, Octavia Spencer

Plot: A chronicle of James Brown‘s rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.


Tagline – The Funk don’t Quit

Runtime: 2 Hours 19 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Strong Performances

Story: Get on Up starts as we see James Brown (Boseman) in different stages of his life, the older famous one, the time he was just starting up and his childhood, where he was raised by his mother Susie (Davis) in a remote cabin in the woods, before his aggressive father Joe (James) returns, once James gets out of his cabin, he makes a good living, before ending up in prison for stealing a suit.

We see the rise of James Brown, with his push to always be seen the biggest name on the show and how his genius for music made him an icon, even if his personal life shows a much darker side to his way of thinking in life.

Thoughts on Get on Up

Characters – James Brown is one of the most influential musicians of the last century, there is no doubt what he did will live on forever. We get to see how James started with nothing, in an abusive childhood with no education, before learning to take the chances thrown his way, trying to make a difference to the world in the spotlight, even if he doesn’t always keep the crowd around him, not always as loyal as he should be. This doesn’t make James look like the most integral person behind the spotlight. Bobby Byrd is the man that gave James a chance to get out of prison, to start something with his singing in gospel, he will stand by James through all the troubles he faces, the bands he goes through, knowing James is the main talent and just being part of this would make him remembered. Ben Bart makes everything happen for James, he tries to help him navigate difficult moments in history, but will help him make the right choices which sees the friendship grow as the success does. Susie is the mother of James, she is forced to leave because of her partner and once he becomes famous wants to come back into his life, while James isn’t willing to let this happen.

PerformancesChadwick Boseman is fantastic in the leading role, he shows that his biopic man, he can bring James Brown to life on stage and in his personal life with ease. Nelsan Ellis is great in his role, showing us that he could provide excellent supporting performances in the film. Dan Aykroyd is strong too, with Viola Davis making a big impact in her scenes in the film.

StoryThe story here follows the life of James Brown, from his poverty like childhood, to his international success in the music industry, we see his ideas on wanting to make a change and just what it will do to the people that helped him get to the top. One of the biggest weaknesses in the film here comes from the early time jumps, we are constantly jumping between moments, which doesn’t help the story telling process. This story also doesn’t paint James as a nice person away from the spotlight, even if he was always trying to achieve something more from his career. The story does try to ram too much into the film, which does make it hard to understand each moment of his life.

Biopic/MusicThis does show a lot of his life, it doesn’t help us get invested in just how much of an impact each moment was. The music can’t be questioned with his hits playing through the film with every beat we know.

SettingsThe film creates some of the biggest stages of James career, never looking like we aren’t in the correct time period.


Scene of the Movie – The performances.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The time jumps.

Final Thoughts This is a by the book biopic, it has wonderful performances and the music you would expect to see, though we do cram too much in for everything to run smoothly.

Overall: By the Books Biopic.

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