'Get On Up': Chadwick Boseman does commendable job portraying James Brown
The '42' actor is great in 'Up,' but the movie feels the need to portray every single aspect of Brown's life.
D Stevens/Universal Pictures/AP
James Brown is a tough act to follow â€“ or portray in a biopic. ChadwickÂ Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in â€ś42,â€ť does a commendable jobÂ of conveying Brownâ€™s swagger, rasp, and calisthenic stage moves,Â but â€śGet On Up,â€ť directed by Tate Taylor (â€śThe Helpâ€ť), doesnâ€™t do theÂ performance justice. Itâ€™s one of those biopics that, instead of focusingÂ on one telling aspect of a career, feels it has to survey every corner of theÂ subjectâ€™s life. The storytelling is mostly linear, with some confusing back-and-forth in the chronology, and itâ€™s a long slog. The Brown whoÂ emerges from this film has a monstrous ego to go with his monster talent.Â
He remains closed off to us, as he is to virtually everyone around him. AsÂ his longtime backup singer Bobby Byrd, Nelsan Ellis is nuanced, andÂ Viola Davis, as Brownâ€™s mother, has a powerful backstage scene with herÂ estranged son that is the filmâ€™s highpoint â€“ even if itâ€™s plunked into theÂ film jarringly out of sequence. There is no law requiring a biopic to makeÂ â€śniceâ€ť with its subject, but â€śGet On Up,â€ť which presents Brown almostÂ entirely unflatteringly except as a performer, makes you wonder why theÂ filmmakers (including Mick Jagger, one of Â its producers) took the trouble. Grade:Â C+ (Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations.)