Thursday, August 14, 2014
And just because the buying public doesn’t respond to a movie doesn’t mean it’s bad. There have been many undiscovered gems that came and went in virtual obscurity because they failed to have anyone in them who wore a cape. So I had high hopes for GET ON UP. It’s the story of R&B superstar James Brown (whose music I love), in an era I love, and for good measure, when he was on stage he often did wear a cape.
And theater owners had to be happy. What better in-movie-commercial was there than James Brown singing “Popcorn?”
There’s a lot to like about this film. The problem is there’s too much. It’s almost two-and-a-half hours long. You could easily take forty minutes out of this movie. And its fatal flaw – you could take any forty minutes out of this movie. Instead of GET ON UP, the title should be WE GET IT.
More good news – Clint Eastwood didn’t direct it.
As for the bad news – this film is waaaay over-directed. It cuts back and forth in time leaving the viewer utterly confused. Director Tate Taylor takes no chances. He throws every convention he can at you. He breaks the fourth wall, does time lapse montages – I was just relieved Oprah Winfrey didn’t show up in a cameo.
The portrait of James Brown was quite idealized, and that’s with showing multiple arrests and spousal violence. There were way more arrests, much more domestic violence, drug use, and rape charges. He had at least nine kids and at least three marriages. To me a better movie would have shown the real contradictions between this genius performer and music industry visionary and troubled, angry, very damaged soul. We only see brief glimpses of his dark side. For every moment he’s fucked up there’s ten minutes he’s funked up.
There are numerous scenes of Brown’s horrible dysfunctional childhood in the deep South that quite frankly would have had more impact if we hadn't already seen similar scenes in five or six other movies. That's just a timing issue.
All in all, too long, great music, but if you want to get a much better, more accurate portrait of the man, instead of this (which no one is watching anyway), go see the documentary THE NIGHT JAMES BROWN SAVED BOSTON by filmmaker, David Leaf. It’s “Outta SIGHT!”
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM