Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Get On Up
Tate Taylor's (The Help) ultra-Pop presentation of the musician James Brown is nothing less than virtuosic, with all the elements of a graphic novel while giving the highlights of Brown's life with a sense of danger, magic and festivity.
This is the larger than life man and as played by Chadwick Boseman (42), nothing is spared with a performance that very nearly reaches a blood-boiling incarnation.
Director Taylor has the daring verve to offer his biography as a series of moving collages that puts Brown's adventure into graphic illustration, with each vignette more poignant and humorous than the last.
Here he is in a helicopter in Vietnam under attack (Boom! Boom! Boom! ). Here he is onstage rising as if conjured by sorcery from the chants of US Marines. At the conclusion of most every segment, the adult Brown is brought back in the body of a child to witness his violent origins where events were often volatile and scary.
His mother (Viola Davis) was often beaten in full view of him and at one point he sees his father firing a gun at her.
The mother leaves.
A young Brown passively enters a splintered and crooked church. Loud screeches and whirling bodies move past, while an intimidating high- hatted man yelps a manic gospel in the center of the floor, his body locked in a spastic charade, while his long, pointed and curving fingernails indicate eerie motions of the vampire and warlock, fear and awe.
Brown is a spacey, space-traveller, wide eyed, wise and open, forever taking refuge in the beat of sound that covers him like a cape.
The guns of war become the punches of his father which in turn become indistinguishable from the sounds of drum and horn.
Through it all, James Brown ages and performs as a perpetually running engine, never stopping, going, going, going, on and on and on. His iconic kneel onstage soon becoming the universal gesture for all of us, men women and children, shaken by war, racism and subjugation.
Yet, this poetical, lysergic man of locomotion is far from a saint; he sometimes transforms into a selfish and angry egotist, terribly smacking the woman he loves, Dee Dee Jenkins (Jill Scott).
The story doesn't shy away from Brown's devils and thankfully so when many music biographies are ultimately sugary and smoothed over.
The film is as vibrant and jumpy as its subject. Brown is shown as a passive divining rod, coming to life through the ghost of music like one possessed.
Brown is endlessly pursued by either cops or the mournful body of his mother and these two ingredients prophecy no good.
Whether by spirit or fate, it is a wondrous thing that this man was able to charm his feet and make power out of his high-hopping and maternal malevolence.
Above all, "Get On Up" highlights the power of music to combat pain, domestic violence, and racial hatred. James Brown is an amphetamine angel and a guerrilla soldier with groove, bringing positive and chimerical energies together when no politicians could.
Both his Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer) and the one time line cook Little Richard (Brandon Mychal Smith) saw it written on the scroll of Space that James was going to become famous with a planetary pompadour as The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, fueled by Coca Cola and other uppers.
The featured music here is as enjoyable as the imagery, full bodied with rhythm and joy.
Chadwick Boseman in the title role, is a man of mean motion here, equally spaced out and sweating, emitting singed embers of perspiration.
This is truly James Brown in the flesh of a different body. To see "Get On Up" is to witness a pair of famous and quivering shoulders hunched in the act of repossessing a well known purple-laced cloak of silver lamé.
Write Ian at email@example.com