Review: “Get On Up” (aka The James Brown Movie)
I went to see “Get On Up” on opening night. I usually avoid opening weekends unless I can catch a matinee or a non-“Black” theatre. (I love Black folk, but the stereotype about us talking during films is true. We’re a call and response people.) But I worked on the social media promotions campaign, and should have seen a screening. I was traveling or working during all of them. I’m late. Womp. It was past time to catch up.
That said, “Get on Up” was well worth the wait and lives up to all the hype. Chadwick Boseman was INCREDIBLE. I hope he gets his just due come awards season, ’cause BAYBEEE, he DID that.
Funny story: my father was in town for the afternoon on Friday. I asked him if he planned to see the “James Brown movie” since for as long as I can remember, he’s talked proudly about “Mr. Brown.” He likes the music, but he is more impressed that Brown was a businessman who used his music money to become an entrepreneur. He didn’t fall for the okey doke of so many artists of his generation that got famous, then went flat broke because of bum deals. (Brown’s finances were messed up off taxes.)
So we’re talking about the movie in the back of cab to drop him off at Penn Station. Dad interjects (hint, hint) that he’s been dying to see the Motown Musical on Broadway. Then he says, “you know I knew him?”
Who’s him? Berry Gordy? I guess that makes sense, since Dad used to live in Detroit at the height of the Motown era and was a DJ for a popular radio station.
But I ask for clarity. “Who? Berry Gordy?”
“I was around him but I didn’t know him. I used to go to parties at his house,” he explains nonchalantly, as if going to parties at Gordy’s house is like going to grocery store.
So now I’m confused. “Who do you know then?” Because surely he’s not talking about…
“James Brown. He was always around.”
The “what?” look on my face was the same as the time he told me he used to play golf with Marvin Gaye. You have to understand, my dad as I know him, is a by-the-book corporate dude who focuses on politics. This guy had this whole other random life that I’m only getting snippets of now.
“Why haven’t you ever told me about James Brown?”
He shrugs. “You never asked.”
Yes, because it’s entirely logical to think that your politico parent used to hobnob with iconic celebs.
Anyway…. “Get On Up” was awesome. If you haven’t seen it, you must
Another random: as I was leaving a business meeting earlier, a British white guy, hears me and a friend discussing the film. He interjects. “I heard it wasn’t so good.”
Really? Because I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews from friends who saw screenings.
“Yeah,” he adds. “The critics aren’t loving it.”
Meh. Somebody lied. I’ve read the reviews, most critics agree that it’s good. On Rotten Tomatoes, it as has a 75% approval rating.
Yeah, so, I took notes during the film because… I’m a blogger and that’s what I do. My thoughts, mostly in chronological order:
**SPOILER ALERT** **SPOILER ALERT** **SPOILER ALERT** **SPOILER ALERT**
*James Brown in this green velour sweatsuit, ranting about who took a sh– in his bathroom is hilarious. This scene is going down in epic Black movie history. BEST LINE: “you did right by yourself, ain’t no other way to live.”
*”Little Junior” is one of the most beautiful children I’ve ever seen. Face of an angel.
*Hold up, James Brown’s dad is “Morgan” from Walking Dead. Lennie James is an accomplished actor, so I should probably describe him better, but that’s how I know him. “Clear” is singlehandedly the best episode of WD.
*James Brown is the blackest Black man that ever lived. Seeing him in this white boy Christmas sweater is killing me. It was killing him too, apparently. “I’m in a honky hoedown,” he tells Mr. Byrd (aka “Lafayette” from True Blood.) SIDENOTE: I hate that show now.
*The post-jail dinner table scene: I fell out when Gramps told him to “pass the beans before you get your bullshit all over them.”
*JB convinced the members of the gospel group to conk their hair. When Mr. Byrd questions the move, Brown tells him: “your hair is rising up to The Lord.” *cackle*
*Um, did Little Richard hit on James Brown?! I was waiting for him to try to kiss JB or glamour him. Sir Richard is still with us. Surely, they’ll be commentary from his camp on his portrayal. In this role he is the walking embodiment of every Instagram meme titled “Lightskin [Men] Be Like…”
*I had NO idea Battle Royales were a real thing. There’s an early scene in Ralph Ellison’s “The Invisible Man” that describes one, but I thought that was artistic liscence. Color me MF shocked.
*JB’s mother denied him to his face. LAWD!
*Is it me? I can’t understand most of James Brown’s lyrics. “Please, please, please” is the only song where I can make out all the words.
*Jill Scott looks f***ing amazing. And she is O-PEN!
*He beat the daylights out of her. JC!
*All hail Tika Sumptner. She’s a baddie.
* Was JB the first Black entertainer to own a plane?
*I don’t understand what’s going on with the wife/ ex-wife. Did they get divorced? Based on what I know of JB, I’m pretty sure. But film is confusing here.
*I want a shirt like James Brown’s dashiki in the “Black and Proud” recording. Had no idea those were kids chanting on the recording. We need another anthem like that– or we should resurrect that one.
*Is that Black Thought in the band? (Answer: Yes.)
*”You can’t make everybody happy and stay on top.”– James Brown *waves church fan*
*JB in this gold jumpsuit is killing me softly. This scene is where Boseman secured his awards. Nailed it!
*”I’m the show and the business.” — JB. *shakes tambourine* YASSSS to JB financing his own live album and reaping the lion’s share of the profits. And also YASSSS to walking away from the “this is how it’s always been done” conversation and coming up with his own way to make sure he got paid.
*JB was an egomaniac. You kinda have to be to think you can do what’s never been done, and given his background, no wonder he had major personality flaws. But still… he pushed away a good friend. People like Mr. Byrd are hard to come by.
*Viola Davis has this ‘Mom Who Abandons Kid” role down pat. It’s like watching Antwone Fisher, but with actual dialogue from her. She’s gotta get a few award nods for the Apollo scene. (EDIT: The Root points out that she also played this role in “Doubt”.)
*My only critique of Boseman’s otherwise spectacular performance is that he didn’t have a full fledged meltdown after his Mom left. I wanted him to bring it like Don Cheadele in Hotel Rwanda with the ugly cry. That could be because he wasn’t given the direction to. After watching the film, I KNOW he’s entirely capable. No points deducted though.
*James Brown in these yellow rollers?! I’m dead.
*If a win come Oscar season wasn’t secured in the gold jumpsuit scene, Boseman got it playing high JB. This is phenomenal acting.
*The denim suit and ascot? *closes casket*
*I’m in a completely full theatre. People clap when the film ends like we’re at a Broadway show and Bosewick can hear it. I’ve only seen that happen at “The Butler” and “Dreamgirls”. Maybe 5 people leave before the actual credits roll.
*Aloe Blac was in the movie? Where? (Answer: he’s the band member who said “f— you!” And bounced.)
What were your favorite scenes/lines from the movie?