By Lee Romero
2018’s AMAZING GRACE presented an open, educational, interesting, and entertaining look into one of the most powerful voices in the world — Aretha Franklin! Known as The Queen of Soul, there’s no punch pulling on how talented the woman was on so many levels. As one of the most powerful, biographical documentary pieces I’ve ever watched, it’s one I was able to thoroughly enjoy and also relate to for one specific reason: mom! My mom is one of her biggest fans, still blasts Franklin’s tracks, and flashback images of watching my mom dance, snap her fingers, and attempt to sing along to Aretha’s tracks generates a lump in my throat, a tear to my eye, and forever one the best memories of what it’s like to see my mom enjoying herself.
In Franklin’s latest cinematic exposition, RESPECT (starring Jennifer Hudson), follows the rise of Aretha Franklyn’s career from a child singing in her father’s church choir to her international superstardom.
While there are similarities to the documentary, there’s also some glitz-n-glam that adds to Hollywood spectacle. For starters, I’ve often said “happy people” do not produce good art. Time and time again I’ve been proven right, and whether it’s Franklin’s doc or bio pic, it’s yet another prime example of it. On some levels, RESPECT is a fascinating film inundated with heart and soul. Without doubt (as if there were ever any), Jennifer Hudson is fierce in her portrayal as The Queen of Soul. Touching, strong, brilliant. and impactful, it wouldn’t surprise me if she’s up for an award next year. In all fairness to the film though, Hudson’s performance wouldn’t have been as elevated had it not been for supporting players like Forest Whitaker (who plays her controlling dad), Marlon Wayans (who plays her abusive husband and manager), and an incredibly joyful performance by Marc Maron (who plays a record producer, who comes off as “sleezy” at first, but full of support, admiration, and respect for Franklin).
Overall, RESPECT is a solid film that surfs a wave of harshness and triumph. It’s more than just a “rags to riches” story because she really didn’t come up in rags. But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t blanketed with some unpleasant moments in her life. Lots of dramatic layers, filled with underlying darkness (I.e. rape, domestic abuse, control, insecurity, alcohol addiction, etc.), and for that, the film itself garners respect for going there. For drawing in audience emotion. Too hard to swallow yet engaging at times and a lot of it is due to its cast. Is it a perfect film? No. Not in the sense of feeling floored by it. There were moments that dragged making it feel like a bit of a slow burn, alongside tie-ins that were evident of her rise to fame, that would have been charming to have seen fleshed out a bit more. Her seesaw-like type of life carried a lot of weight, and I don’t think the script captured it all.
In the end, if you’ve seen one bio pic, you’ve seen them all. There’s always good and bad, but elements of entertainment and always something you’ll take with you once done viewing it. RESPECT is no different. A little too long, but it deserves a watch.
Genre: Biography, Drama, Music | Rated: PG-13 | Run Time: 2:25
Starring: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Marc Maron, Audra McDonald, Tituss Burgess, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Heather Headley, Skye Dakota Turner, Tate, Donavan, and Mary J. Blige
Directed by Liesl Tommy
RESPECT – Movie Website