Directed by Liesl Tommy
Starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Kimberly Scott, & Marlon Wayans
Synopsis: Biopic capturing the rise of the incomparable Queen of Soul, Ms Aretha Franklin.
If you’re making a biopic of a persons life it should be representative of that person as a whole. Not only their career. Not only the highlights. RESPECT tries (and in my opinion stumbles) to capture the full picture of Aretha Franklin. It’s the cliff notes version of her life.
Now don’t get me wrong, they got a lot right. Spectacular costume changes and an array of hairstyles from pressed to afro to highly coiffed wigs. The music was obviously phenomenal and Jennifer Hudson held her own down to the last note. There was a fair amount of drama covered that kept the film moving along.
That being said, a fair amount was left out and I found some of the transitions clunky (ie her drinking problem, which I felt wasn’t portrayed as an escalating issue that grew out of trauma, but was dumped in midway through). I also would have liked to see more done with her family members, from her father’s “extracurricular activities” with an underage church patron, to the fact that the siblings that did make it into the story all died from varying forms of cancer. It would have been nice to even include some end credit blurbs about them and their families. Lastly, the entire situation with her youngest son was barely a footnote and I felt that it was huge part of who she became and surely influenced her alcoholism later in life.
Overall, RESPECT is worth the watch. I would have liked a more detailed account but I did enjoy seeing how her career played out. It was great to see Marlon Wayans in a serious role and both Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson gave strong portrayals. Titus Burgess was a pleasant addition to the cast and although Audra McDonald only got to sing one brief song, she was great. On a humorous note, we started watching ER and Kimberly Scott’s episode came up a few days after we watched her embody the glue of Aretha’s family Rachel “Big Mama” Franklin!