This week, Cineast gives previews of Get On Up, Behaving Badly and What If.
Get On Up
The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Mr. Dynamite, Soul Brother Number 1, Mr. Please Please Please himself, JAMES BROWN! Here’s a biopic that’s liable to make you give it up and turn it loose. Get On Up, taking its title from James Brown’s classic track “Sex Machine,” stars Chadwick A. Boseman as James Brown, a man who was, without question, the single most talented and influential black musician and performer of the ’60s and ’70s. The fact that James Brown has never been successfully imitated by the scores of entertainers who’ve tried to do it—the dancing and acrobatics alone are almost impossible for most mere mortals, let alone that trademark howl of a voice—must have given the filmmakers pause, but Boseman, while he doesn’t look much like James Brown, has the speaking voice and has practiced the moves. The singing parts are supplied from Brown’s recordings—because who could improve upon perfection? Brown’s genius, as we all know, was supplemented by a hearty dose of sheer lunacy. And let’s face it: could it have been otherwise? The two strands were inextricably entwined. Get On Up explores both strands, and, if done right, will blow us all away.
Summer just isn’t summer without a good teen exploitation movie. Behaving Badly promises to be this year’s entry in that illustrious category. Selena Gomez and Nat Wolff star as Nina and Rick, she the dream girl, he the inexperienced boy with a hard crush. As usual, many obstacles stand in the way of Rick and Nina getting together—in this case, a bullying ex-boyfriend, a mobster, some strippers, and a cougar that wants to show young Rick the ropes. The R rating isn’t likely to prevent the targeted pubescent demographic from getting in on this joy ride.
What If has a few things in common with the HBO series Girls: it is set among a group of young, pre-professional urbanites, and it features Adam Driver in an important role. However, while it has its moments of intentional awkwardness, What If, unlike Girls, is not predicated on the idea that people’s early 20s are characterized by a continual parade of bad choices, awkward sexual encounters and public humiliations. Starring Daniel Radcliffe (you know, Harry Potter) and Zoe Kazan, it’s more of a standard romantic comedy. With Toronto acting as the urban backdrop, it’s the usual story of a couple who are clearly meant to be together, and yet the fates have conspired to keep them apart temporarily—she, because she’s already involved, he, because he “doesn’t believe in love.” Well, you know where it’s all going, but the pleasure’s all in the journey.