I finally got to see the James Brown biopic, Get On Up!
The film gave the viewers great insight into the persona of James Brown. We got to see the humble beginnings and troubled childhood that shaped him into the man he became. We were let in on the estranged relationship he had with his mother and the abuse he endured at the hands of his father. We saw the influence of the church on his performance style. We saw that he was an innovative, savvy businessman who accepted no non-sense from his band members.
His musical genius was highlighted in a way that left us all uncontrollably bobbing our heads and tapping our feet from our seats, as if we were live at the concert with James Brown. In fact, the film did such a phenomenal job of embodying James Brown that it felt as if he were still alive. Chadwick Boseman derseves an Oscar for his performance because he encapsulated Mr. Brown, as the late James Brown required his associates to address him, in all his glory and in all his downfall. Watching Boseman was like watching Brown reincarnated.
The film took some creative liberties and broke the fourth wall with the audience a few times, which makes it hard for me to take a film seriously. It can be jarring. That seems to be a “black thing”. However, these momentary lapses did not at all overshadow the character of Mr. Brown. I left feeling like I knew him more. His flaws were not beaten with a dead horse. The film touched on his promiscuity, tyrannical nature, domestic abuse, and drug use, but not in a manner that overshadowed his musical genius and his career.
I was very impressed with the balance of good and bad the film displayed. Mr. Brown was allowed to be a dynamic character in that we were granted the right to hate him some of the time and love him some of the time, without guilt. Most of the time, however, we found ourselves entranced by his eccentricity and in awe of his undeniable stage presence.
I left that theater feeling connected and empowered. My only regret was that I was reminded that this new generation of young people, where anyone with a Macbook can be a producer and pop status is purchased by “the machine” rather than earned by talent, will very seldom get the opportunity to stumble upon such iconic, timeless music as James Brown’s.