I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Get On Up (2014)

I've been a James Brown fan since I was in pre-school.  One of my favorite childhood memories is of watching him on "The Ed Sullivan Show".  Mr. Brown fell on his knees to the stage, and a cape was draped around his shoulders.  Normally, someone in his show would do the honors with the cape, helping an allegedly overcome-with-emotion Brown off the stage.  That time, Ed Sullivan put the cape on Mr. Brown.  Sullivan didn't know what to do when Mr. Brown suddenly revived and ran back up to the microphone. Sullivan just let the cape fall and stepped back into the wings of the stage.

This movie doesn't feature that performance, but it does cover some of Brown's other big performances such as when he went on The T.A.M.I. Show (1965), the concert featured on the famous Live At The Apollo album (1966), and a concert done in Paris back in 1971.  But the movie doesn't delve deeper into is what made The Hardest Working Man In Show Business tick.  There are plenty of hints that Brown was affected by situations in his life, but the screenplay falls short.

We get a little of Brown's (Chadwick Boseman) poverty-stricken childhood in Georgia, with absentee parents (played by Lennie Jones and Viola Davis) who had their own problems.  As a young man, Brown ends up in jail for stealing, and is saved from a long term by the family of the guy who would become his best friend, Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis).  Byrd is the band member that is focused on the most.  Musicians Maceo Parker (Craig Robinson), Pee Wee Ellis (Tariq Trotter), and backup singer Yvonne Fair (Tika Sumpter) aren't shown much.  Boseman does a good job of doing Brown's signature dance moves; I was especially pleased to see a scene reenacted from the movie Ski Party (1965), which featured Brown doing a split in the snow.  Unfortunately, the movie jumps back and forth between Brown's youth, the climb up to fame, and after fame arrived.  Sometimes, titles let the audience know what year the story was in at the moment.  Most other times, I had to figure it out by the hairstyles and clothes the characters were wearing.

I thought it was a nice touch having Dan Ackroyd playing Ben Bart, who managed Brown's career for a long time.  Ackroyd knew Brown in real life, and he appeared in The Blues Brothers (1980) and The Blues Brothers 2000 (1999) with Brown.  Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, is one of the producers of the movie.

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