First Hit: The music was great, dancing even better, historically somewhat interesting, and confusing in how it was put together.
I recall listening to James Brown (played by Chadwick Boseman) in the early 1960s thinking, this guy’s doing his own thing and it is very soulful.
Not soulful like the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, or The Platters. Brown’s music was in a word “Funky”. He is and was the creator of the funk sound. He mixed musical rhythms together that may have made a classical musical teacher cringe, but in the end the sound was powerful, interesting and in the soulful groove of us all.
His music reached across races – James Brown made such an impact in music that is felt today and will forever be felt. The film gave perspective of where he came from, how he was raised, and his belief that he knew what he wanted his music to sound like. One of the most interesting scenes is during a rehearsal when he told everyone that their musical instrument was a drum – and that the beat he wanted would work if they did what he said.
The film also gave a glimpse as to his beliefs of our government and race. He demanded respect from his musicians and was a task master. He didn’t trust many people. The music came through loud and clear and the camera work on some of the dancing was very good. However the crisscross movement of time to review his past and present life was confusing at times because the relation to time was not well marked. There were times I had to think as to what time in his life we were seeing.
Boseman was really good as Brown and he seemed to get a lot of the dancing footwork down which may not have been easy. Nelsan Ellis played his best friend and bandmate Bobby Byrd. Ellis was really strong and he made Boseman’s character better. He provide a deeper understanding of Brown. Dan Aykroyd played his manager and business partner Ben Bart. As Bart, Ackroyd was fantastic. His seriousness and sarcasm was perfect. Viola Davis as Susie Brown (mother) was very strong and provided both warmth, remorse and depth to the film. Jez and John-Henry Butterworth wrote the screenplay which required research and a willingness to dig into the positives and darker side of his life. Tate Taylor directed this film and may have made it more complicated to view than necessary.
Overall: The music was outstanding – I enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane.