Celebrating Brown’s genius and artistry, we then proceed to backtrack from this infamous sequence of events that saw the musician arrested in 1988, to when he first fell in love with music as a child, a passion he harboured when in prison as a juvenile. It was there he met Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis) who offered the troubled youngster a place to stay upon his release. The pair then formed a band, culminating in a string of hit singles – thanks to the help of manager Ben Bart (Dan Aykroyd), before Brown went solo (much to the disgust of his band members), where he eventually went on to become one of the most influential musicians of all time.
Get On Up is overtly cinematic and surreal at times, but that serves the picture well. Similarly to Ray, here is a biopic that uses its artistic license for the sake of entertainment, and triumphs accordingly. This is most evident in the decision to have Brown speak directly to camera throughout and address the audience, breaking that fourth wall. It adds to the surrealistic nature of the piece, and this technique is reminiscent of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman, where our entry point presents his own version of events, and yet it’s somewhat unreliable, as he’s not viewing it all from a clear and stable frame of mind.
Because of this, Tate is let off the hook for not exploring Brown’s faults in more depth. Many biopics shy away from the more negative aspects and seek in celebrating the subject – and while this is no different, the fact we see everything from Brown’s perspective, and he was so delusional and at times in something of a fantasy land, it means we’re forced disregard some of his more reprehensible actions, because he’s doing so himself.
Boseman shines in the lead role, with an outstanding turn. Much like he managed with Jackie Robinson in 42, he embodies the role at hand, and never seems daunted at portraying such a renowned, celebrated figure. Boseman also overplays the role completely, as this is about as hammy and overstated as you’ll see – but once again, that’s exactly as it should be, because that was James Brown, an elaborate showman. So Get Up Offa That Thing, and go and see this movie. It’s a delight.