Aretha Franklin was beyond debate one of the most important and influential artists in music history and her story is deserving of a movie that is worth telling and Respect manages to do that despite occasionally suffering from biopic syndrome.
Jennifer Hudson stars as Franklin and to get straight to the point, she delivers a performance that absolutely carries this movie through.
At the beginning of the movie, we're introduced to a young Aretha (Skye Dakota Turner) and growing up, she sings a lot for her pastor father (Forest Whitaker), but her home life is deeply troubled due to her parents' divorce stemming from her father's infidelity issues.
She manages to find comfort and solace in singing thanks to her loving mother (Audra MacDonald). Certainly that relationship is better than the one she has with her father which is controlling, rocky, and turbulent. Things go from bad to worse for young Aretha when her mother dies and she left at her father's mercy.
Then we get introduced to Aretha as an adult (Hudson) and this is where the movie shines. Hudson portrays Ms. Franklin with an exuberant independence and she refuses to compromise her artistic integrity in order to satisfy her father or her record producers who insist she work on cover material instead of her songs.
In addition to her musical career, the movie also gives a glimpse into her work as a civil rights activist working alongside Martin Luther King (Gilbert Glenn Brown) and her passion for to see African Americans in America receive their rights.
Respect is a film that is very much guided by Hudson's performance. Each time she's on screen, she is riveting, magnetic and mesmerizing which thankfully is quite often. Not only she does have the look and sound down, but she also displays the style and essence of who and what Ms. Franklin was. From her uncompromising stance as an artist to dealing with personal demons from her relationships with both her father and husband to her faith guiding her every step, it's a nuanced, engaging performance that can't be ignored. It'll be an upset if she isn't nominated for Best Actress next year.
If only the rest of the picture didn't take conventional detours, then we could've had something that lived up to both her performance as well as Franklin's legacy.
Be that as it may, it's an entertaining and occasionally moving film. It earned my respect enough to recommend.
(Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, strong language including racial epithets, violence, suggestive material, and smoking.)