The true story of Aretha Franklin's rise to superstardom, from
singing in her father's church choir to becoming the Queen of Soul.
Directed by Liesl Tommy
Written by Tracey Scott Wilson
Starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans,
Audra McDonald, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Skye Dakota Turner, Albert Jones, Mary J. Blige
Aretha Franklin is one of the most influential musicians of all time. Her gospel-infused, soulful, and deeply personal music has become ingrained in the culture of the twentieth century and has influences countless musicians to strive to find voices of their own. It was only a matter of time before her life made it to the big screen, and who better than Oscar winning actress and powerhouse vocalist Jennifer Hudson to play her? Hudson is easily the best thing about this movie. Her performance, particularly during the singing scenes, is stellar and could see her claim a second Oscar next year. Of course, the movie itself falls victim to the musician biopic formula, but that doesn't bother me. I happen to like that formula, and I understand it is the way it is because a lot of musicians' lives follow the same trajectory, even Aretha Franklin.
Aretha grew up in Detroit, singing in her father's church's choir, almost like a novelty. When she lost her mother at ten years old and birthed a child at only twelve, Aretha held onto her faith in God and to her talented voice. She struggled her entire life to be her own woman, with so many men seeking to control her. The film chronicles her involvement in the civil rights movement, her struggles with alcohol, and the many songs that she gave to us over a career that spanned over five decades.
Respect definitely feels like Bohemian Rhapsody, Get On Up, Rocketman, and The United States vs. Billie Holiday, but I liked all of those movies too. Musician biopics are fun to me because I get to see where genius came from. I get to see how these songs I've heard for my entire life came into being. With Respect, I get to try and understand Aretha Franklin, who was a complicated woman and a true artist if there ever was one.