It’s a man’s man’s man’s world, as per the lyrics and title of James Brown’s classic 1966 single. But it’s what the woman does to the man that drives him. At least that’s the feeling I get from the first trailer for Tate Taylor’s next film, Get On Up, a feature version of the formative years in James Brown’s career and life. Who? (horn stabs) I said the Godfather of Soul! (horn stabs) I said the Sex Machine himself, James Brown!
One would expect Tate’s follow-up to his highly acclaimed 2011 drama The Help would be at least as dramatic and heartfelt, and that’s mostly what I’m getting from this trailer, via iTunes Movie Trailers, although the massive 2:47 length is played out to look like it’s singing for the attention of award voters. While a closer focus on his later career decline, fueled by drugs and bad romances, would have garnered a different kind of critical attention, Tate is apparently taking things to hammier territories. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the one thing this movie needs is a leading man that is in the vicinity of matching Brown’s natural charisma and intensity, and 42 star Chadwick Boseman brightens up every moment he’s in this trailer. Some of that might be other lights reflecting off of his shiny hair and teeth.
Boseman portrays Brown during his early years, when an impoverished and mostly motherless youth led to a stint in a juvenile detention center, where he meets his first partner in music, Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis). Brown moves quickly from gospel to ass-bumping funk, standing closer to the center of the spotlight as it goes on. Of course, at some point his vacant mother comes back to mess with his emotions, and Viola Davis is a great choice for what should be a limited but powerful role. While I’m sure a few bridges are burned between friends as the film goes on, this looks like a mainstream biopic that won’t swim too far into troubling drama.
There’s a huge supporting cast, some of whom show up in the trailer, including early manager Ben Bard (Dan Aykroyd), the inspirational Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer), father Joseph James (Lennie James), and legendary musicians Sam Cooke (Ralph E. Tresvant), saxophonist Maceo Parker (Craig Robinson), Bootsy Collins (Justin Hall), Mick Jagger (Nick Eversman) and Clyde Stubblefield (Rob Demery). And then some. There’s a lot to look forward to here if you’re a fan of Brown’s work, and possibly even if you aren’t. I’d be lying if I said part of my enthusiasm wasn’t fueled by hearing the titular song blaring through a theater’s speakers.
Now step away from the computer and bust a move or twelve. Nobody’s watching.