Still hard to believe that she is dead. When someone possesses a voice like that and is such a staple of music you think they should always be around. And yet even the Queen of Soul is mortal. Aretha Franklin died in 2018 and three years later we get a film about her. It was not the first as Nat Geo beat them to the punch with Genius with Cynthia Erivo as Aretha. Here we will examine what Respect brings to the conversation about the iconic singer.
Watching Respect I very quickly was reminded of the Judy Garland film Judy with Renee Zellweger in the lead role. It was one which won Zellweger an Oscar but was a case of the performance being on a completely different level as the film it is a part of. The same sort of thing is going on here. Jennifer Hudson is marvellous as Aretha. She turns in a powerhouse performance befitting the subject. Though we all know that she can sing and that her acting is good from her performance in another musical film, Dreamgirls, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar Award, Jennifer Hudson managed to sing the bejesus out of the songs while at the same time not just impersonating Aretha. Just that alone might earn her another Oscar nomination.
The biopic itself is fairly underwhelming. Fairly typically, we follow Aretha from a young girl discovering her gift to a young woman trying to find her place in the music world. In the usual way, the story winds along stopping every so often to highlight the focal points of the subject’s life. Despite the weakness of the story, there is no denying that the woman had an amazing life and was a powerhouse in many different ways. Aretha’s life is one which deserves a film. Not sure this film does that life/woman justice, though.
We follow along as she loses her mother while still a child, is left under the care of a strict preacher father, becomes pregnant at the age of 12, has to endure an abusive husband (played by Marlon Wayans) who was also her manager, and wages a battle against alcohol addiction at the beginning of her career. Phew! That is plenty and we have not even touched upon the music. the resilience she shows is at times mind blowing. Yet I could not connect (unless there was music happening) the way I wanted to. Shame!
- The Making of Respect
- Becoming Aretha
- Capturing a Legacy
- From Muscle Shoals
- Exploring the Design of Respect
- Digital Copy