Respect is the biographical film about the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, played by the formidably talented Jennifer Hudson. Hudson was not really a surprising casting choice, but it was an obviously correct one. Liesl Tommy is the director of this film which was written by Tracey Scott Wilson. Callie Khouri shares story credit with her. The cast includes Forest Whitaker as Aretha’s overbearing father, Marlon Wayans, Marc Maron, Tate Donovan, and Mary J. Blige.
So the audience first catches up with a 10 year old Aretha Franklin and follows her through her maturing talent and her rise to stardom.
This follows the pattern of most biopics, which isn’t a bad thing. It actually was well done, and I got to learn quite a bit about Aretha Franklin. I was not a close follower of her, but I was glad to get the gist of how talented she really was. I did not remember that she was a pretty accomplished piano player. I also was not aware of the tragedy and brokenness in her life, however that was not too surprising considering most talents like her carry these burdens.
There were some moments in the film that could have used a little better explanation, but I think this to be a common issue with this genre of film. Especially if the subject has such a complex background as Aretha Franklin.
All of the cast did great, but Jennifer Hudson choosing to actually sing live on film was obviously the right path to take. Hudson is also an old pro on this type of project, so it is not surprising that she chose to use her own powerful vocal talents.
It is not a perfect production, but it is a very strong and informative one. The music is well selected and played. Although there were some aspects of Franklin’s history that seemed a little muddled in the portrayal here, but the performances and the post production work are solid enough for me to not obsess over these inconsistencies.
Anyway, the strengths of this film outweigh the minor problems here.