I love James Brown’s music as much as the next guy, but let’s face it, he really wasn’t that great of a person. He may be one of the most influential 20th century artists, but he was selfish, had a huge ego, and didn’t seem to care about anyone in his life. But unlike most stories where the main character develops and realizes his mistakes, James Brown in Get On Up never seems to. He never changes his ways. And unlike most biopics, this one fails to really take a stand on whether or not it wants to glorify or vilify its main character. But it’s not like The Social Network or Goodfellas where it feels intentional. And in the Jobs biopic, although we may not have liked the protagonist a whole lot, there was no doubt that the purpose of the movie was to glorify him. Here, it seems as if the filmmakers never made it a conscious decision. They want us to love the guy–it’s obvious–but instead they focused too much on just telling a story.
The main issues lie within the pacing. It just spits events at you instead of letting them happen naturally to the surprise of the audience. The drama is often rushed too quickly to get to the characters’ reactions sooner. This may have been done to shorten the runtime, but it makes us subconsciously belittle these events in our heads.
And while Chadwick Boseman is an absolute genius as James Brown, the character’s demeanor is frustratingly unpredictable. He doesn’t develop or learn much of anything–but of course this isn’t the film’s fault. If nothing else, it tells the story of Brown and explains why he was how he was. It accurately portrays the rise and fall of the man, but isn’t as big as it could have been. It chooses to glorify him over showing that he really just spiraled downward to the end. Then, during the last 15 minutes, it makes the movie all about Brown’s relationship with Bobby Byrd, which seems like an afterthought after the filmmakers realize that this was the only redeeming factor about this guy’s life.
It’s an entertaining film and the music is expectedly great, but it’s Boseman that makes you like this movie.
Just because someone is influential doesn’t mean we must rush to make a biographical film about them. I mean, Einstein still hasn’t received the proper treatment. But nonetheless, it happens quite often these days and we should just think of them as a quicker alternative to a book.
Twizard Rating: 82