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Monday, September 29, 2014

Video Beaverhausen: The Modern Musical Biopic I -- Get On Up !

James Brown is dead. But very much alive in a biopic straight out of Hollywood.

Get On Up is a solid musical biopic, as stylized and traditional as Doris Day in Love Me or Leave Me excepting its mostly black cast. Directed by Tate (The Help) Taylor, it's a beautifully executed film with a mesmerizing performance by Chadwick Boseman at its center. The Help's Octavia Spencer and Viola Wills (as James Brown's mother, 180 degrees from her sexy law professor now on tv) have brief roles in this. Dan Aykroyd co-stars as the star's manager.

Jill Scott is in the cast. And Tika Sumpter makes a wonderful Yvonne Fair.

Brought up in the worst, abject poverty and family situation, Brown emerged on raw chutzpah and street fighter instincts in the pop/soul-music world. The childhood moments are heart-rending and give us insight to James Brown's adult behavior, some of it not very pretty. This is James Brown warts-and-all, like his (verbal as well as physical) abusive streak and boundless egomania.

The film details the pop star's youthful vigor and his descent into drugs and problems with the law.

I'll be interested in seeing how many Oscar nominations this film garners next year. Boseman should be hard to beat. I'll also be surprised if Viola Davis doesn't get a supporting actress nomination for what develops into a very touching performance. Taylor once again explores themes of race and gender relationships sensitively. I don't imagine him being ignored at Oscar time.

Rated PG-13, from Universal. Two hours and 20 minutes long. Worth every minute.

Modern Musical Biopic II -- Jersey Boys tomorrow at Leave It to Beaverhausen!

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