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Film Review: Get On Up

August 3, 2014
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*****SPOILER ALERT ******
I want to say that the most epic biopic that I’ve ever seen aside from Malcolm X (which despite its brilliance had its issues) was Taylor Hackford’s Ray staring Jamie Foxx. The Best Actor award was well deserved and since then I’ve compared every single biopic of black people to Foxx’s performance.

Despite the fact that I’m obsessed with history, I feel a way about biopics especially because it seems like one of the ways for Black people to be seen in film. is Hollywood only comfortable if we’re stuck in the past? Hopefully we are ushering in a new era of cinema but, I’m over seeing us as slaves, sharecroppers, maids and even iconic but troubled public figures.

Though I feel like I have a good handle of what’s going on in Black Cinema, I hadn’t heard of Chadwick Boseman until the press circuit for 42 started. Obviously, I went to see it (as I do most things having to do with black film and TV) and I thought it was a well done film. Chadwick was really good as Jackie Robinson. The film was a bit fluffy, but so are most biopics and I didn’t think much else of it, or him for that matter

That changed when photos from this project leaked. Boseman, hair fully conked and dressed as the Godfather of Soul. To say I was apprehensive was putting it lightly. To get down James Brown’s mannerisms and the intricacies of his character seemed literally impossible. I was certain that the film would be a complete train wreck.

And it would have been, had it not been for Bosemen pulling of the performance of a lifetime.

I’ll admit, I enjoyed The Help for what it was. Octavia Butler, Viola Davis, Emma Stone and Jessica Chastain are incredible actresses and Tate Taylor stayed within him realm as a director, perhaps the book provided the guidelines that he needed.

With Get On Up, Taylor took a lot of risks and unfortunately they didn’t really work. To begin with the coloring was overly saturated, pulling the audience out of the time period and right back into the 21st century. Where Ray was gray and muted, sucking you further and further into the story, Get On Up was way too flashy where it didn’t need to be.

The flashbacks were also exhausting and extremely clumsy. The story cut back and forth dropping the audience down without giving us any real guidance into which point of Brown’s life we were being shown. Only cheesy title cards and Brown’s clothing choices helped ground us in space and time. This really did a disservice for younger generations, yes, we all know James Brown’s music but perhaps not a chronological discography.

There were also many unanswered questions in the film, I’m not sure if things were cut for the purpose of time or if the editor was just not in sync with the rest of the project. At one point there was mention of Brown’s son Teddy having some highly contagious disease and then it was never mentioned again. We never get a complete understanding of how he met either of his wives. His tax issues came up out of the blue and the entire story was very disjointed. (Perhaps there were holes because Brown’s family wasn’t comfortable airing all of his dirty laundry.)

In spite all of this, the performances alone made it well worth my $14. I’ve stood for Nelsan Ellis since I first got hooked on True Blood my freshman year of undergrad.  He’s an exceptional actor who deserves so many more roles. He was fantastic as Bobby Byrd.  Also, ya’ll needed to find Brandon Smith (he plays Little Richard) and give him a full leading role in Little Richard’s biopic. The man was EPIC.  And finally, as I’ve mentioned Chadwick Boseman should be so proud of his performance. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t be mad if I saw him portray another ten iconic Black men.

Overall, the film was certainly worth seeing, though perhaps I’m one of the few who felt that way. The film barely grossed $14 million which is kind of sad making it number three at the box office this weekend.

xoxoxoxox Chocolate Girl In the City xoxoxoxoxoxox