director: Tate Taylor
writer: Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth
starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis (Mos Def), Dan Aykroyd and Viola Davis
genre: Biopic | Drama | Music
released: August 1, 2015 (U.S.), October 9, 2014 (Germany), October 16, 2014 (Greece), October 30, 2014 (Australia)
A decade ago, it felt as if there was a musical biopic fever with films such as "Ray", "Walk the Line" and "I'm Not There" making the headlines. Usually these sort of films are just standard fare or turn out to be incredible fun with creative productions. Thankfully, the James Brown biopic turned out to be a creative production that was done in such a fresh way, that coming out of it you will have better felt that funk!
The film follows James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) throughout his glamorous and extravagant life. With the ups and downs of his career and an inside view to how difficult he was as an individual, while also how special he was as an artist and as an entertainer.
At first, when hearing of the film's production it made me fear I'd be watching another "Ray" and I don't state that in a negative way, but with the idea in mind that I would have been watching a film of a very similar motif. However, the people behind the film wisely understood that moving from the musical genre of R&B to funk, wouldn't be cause for concern. Also, l the fact this biopic follows much less the dramatic events of its protagonists life in contrary to other biopics and a filmmaking approach that is much more eccentric and lively than could have been anticipated. Coincides perfectly with James Brown personality and musical performances alike.
Furthermore, the choice of casting Chadwick Boseman as James Brown was sublime and possibly as good as Jamie Foxx or Joaquin Phoenix in their own respective iconic music roles. Boseman is one of the best talents Hollywood has and gives here a sensational portrayal of one our best music legends. However, it is kind of easy to give praise to someone playing a real life individual. Usually because of the person's the importance to history and or culture and also the rising up of ones performance actual worth even more than needed and even their surrounding material being of a merely okay stature. And although this is fairly true for many production's, it isn't for this one.
Here Boseman gets deep into his portrayal of James Brown and transforms into the funk legend himself. From the dance moves, to the depth of his voice and with a performance of pure spunk and cockiness from on stage with fans, to his friends and fans. Its also worth noting that the choice by the filmmakers to get us deep into Brown's way of thinking, dreams and fears. Helps Boseman grow even more into his role. This is as well helped by having Mos Def play next to him his best friend and fellow singer. Bringing a real ying and yang to the relationship and how they would both react to their rise and fame.
Getting back to the part of raising a particular film's biopic star more than the material itself has happened in films such as "Ray" and "Walk the Line". Where both films were good biopic films, though that honestly had better performances than what the films managed to accomplish in the end overall. Both films lead actors came out with a boat load lot of awards and recognition, but their films didn't have the same fortune.
On the other hand, I don't know if the same thing could be said for this film. As Boseman didn't get the same praise that the previous stars had received and was pretty much forgotten of by critic societies and awards shows. But its a down and dirty shame not to reward or at least honor him with a simple nomination. Worthy of note is also that this Oscar year was the one without a African American nomination. Which could be because they thought no one really deserved it or because they just didn't want to seem too politically correct. Anyway, it truly is Boseman in my book, as the best actor of the year.
When it comes to biopics there is always a fine line between telling the story to the smallest detail or giving us overall spectral view on the man or lady during his time or fame and also he came to be that person. This was the choice finally taken in the film, showing just enough to understand Brown pathos, but also how he took fame and rided with it.
The film really ties together Brown's musical beginnings, troubled past, rise to fame and exuberant personality perfectly. Showing the man that from flawed roots did his best to keep the funk and pass it along to all of us. An accomplishment for the history books.