By Madeline Marcelia Garvin
Allow me to commence by saying that I hate sitting through 10 minutes of previews! I don’t care if certain actresses and actors are being promoted; but, on Aug. 1, opening day of “Get on Up,” I managed to not gag because of the previews. With that said, I wish I had arrived to “Get on Up” just a little later than I did because of the initial depiction of Mr. Brown by Mr. Chadwick Boseman, who became the baseman in my book after portraying Jackie Robinson in the film “42.” Boseman is dynamite; he transcends and becomes “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” As a matter of fact, his depiction of “The Godfather of Soul” is so accurate that if I could, I would have gotten on up and danced because the music made me feel good!
Boseman, with his depiction of Mr. James Brown, knocks the ball out of the park, and he gets up and does his thang in more scenes than one; so much so that one cannot take one’s eyes off of him and his footwork, which is the way it is supposed to be. Then too, Boseman is the “star,” and rises above his best friend Bobby Byrd portrayed by Nelsin Ellis, Susie Brown (his film “Momma”) portrayed by Viola Davis and Aunt Honey portrayed by Octavia Spenser. Again, Boseman is good! (Check the name, like Bose sound system and man, which he is). It is as if Brown’s ethereal presence has taken over Boseman’s feet; there are times he (Boseman) gets on up like a sex machine; and though this may be true, one cannot forget the harsh realities of his life as a child; where he witnesses his mother being abused by his father; where he has to live with his Aunt Honey and see her making money as the madam of a run-down brothel. But, it is always the music that turns James Brown on and keeps him stepping, whether it is the music in the church, the juke joint or the street.
There are many scenes that show Brown’s generous spirit; though we also see his intolerable abusive side. But, Brown never fails to give a good show; some of which some of you, like me may remember in real life. Boseman’s footwork on such songs as: “Night Train,” “I Got the Feelin’,” “Get on Up,” and “Poppa’s got a Brand New Bag,” is unbelievable. I know Boseman had to practice for hours to slide and glide so smoothly across the stage, without skipping a beat. But, I still wanted him to “Make it Funky,” right after he reminded everyone “I’m Black and I’m Proud”.
This film is entertaining! And, though it makes reference to the “Chittling Circuit” and payola, there are many aspects of the music industry it omits; just like many intriguing and devastating aspects of Mr. Brown’s life are omitted. But, for a two-hour glimpse into the life of Mr. Larger than Life Himself – James Brown, it does alright. The film deals with themes of race, family, poverty, friendship and struggle all in one sitting; not too bad for a two hour show.