A biopic can be the most thankless of endeavors for a filmmaker. Tate Taylor had the chore of bringing the life of James Brown to the big screen, and everything that means, in Get On Up. By casting Chadwick Boseman as the Godfather of Soul, he already had one funky leg up on the effort.
You only get one chance at a biopic (here are our top 19 true stories that get it right). With a life journey like Brown had, there are moments to celebrate. There are moments that will liberate. And then, there are those headline-making moments that are what most in our sensationalist society recall about the man who lived to have us all Get On Up.
How Taylor tells his story is wildly original and easily sets it apart from some biopics -- and particularly music biopics -- that we have seen of late. He bounces all over the place in time to showcase Brown’s success, his later years, his days as a poor and motherless child and ultimately those times where the icon pushed boundaries and made history.
Taylor even employs a broken fourth wall method where Boseman addresses the camera, and we believe that it works immensely -- even teased effectively in the Get On Up trailer. This is the James Brown story, and this is exactly how James Brown would have wanted it told -- by him!
Boseman is a hurricane and comes at the part and the audience with a range that is surely Oscar-worthy at the most and at the least superstar-making. He captures the cadence, the rhythms, the dance moves and even the explosive and larger-than-life personality that was the man who passed away leaving a gaping hole in pop culture when he left us on Christmas Day in 2006.
Get On Up is an astonishing achievement and it is inspiring too because it is another example of something Hollywood does well. Filmmakers have long shown the world what makes this country so great: Despite all the odds stacked against one person, you can still will yourself to become an enormous success.
Taylor is a genius for what he has crafted with this film and he has hired the best to surround Boseman to compliment his electrifying performance. Taylor’s The Help stars, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, play maternal influences at opposite sides of the helpful spectrum for Brown and provide another layer of emotional resonance to the biopic.
And one of the biggest revelations about the life of Brown is shown through the character played by Nelsan Ellis, as Brown's best friend and band mate, Bobby Byrd. Ellis plays the complexities of the role of a person who stands by someone, who is not the easiest to stand by, with a true tenor that is absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking.
Our Get On Up review has to report that Taylor, Boseman and the entire cast and crew have truly brought the funk, and when it comes to the story of the man who brought it to the masses, there can be no higher compliment.
You can check out Taylor's previous work and watch The Help online.