According to the "Get On Up" movie website, the movie covers various parts of James Brown's life from childhood through much of his adult life and music career. The movie covers a time period from the late 1930s to 1993.
"Get On Up" documents aspects of Brown's upbringing, including his parents' financial struggles and eventual separation, physical abuse from his father and his time living with his aunt, a brothel owner.
The movie also shows how Brown became a singer through his time spent in prison for stealing a suit. Viewers are shown scenes of the many tragic points in Brown's life, along with some of his successes.