November 5, 2021 Respect (Movie Review)
From 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) and 2019’s Rocketman (Elton John) to 2019’s The Dirt (Mötley Crüe) and 2021’s The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Billie Holiday), there has been no shortage of iconic musical figure biopics in recent years. In fact, music biopics have been all the rage over the past 5 years with a ton of other films debuting in some shape or form; including 2018’s Lords of Chaos (Black Metal’s Mayhem) and 2020’s Stardust (David Bowie). Which leads us to third quarter of 2021 where the Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, premiered in theaters on August 13th, but now also makes its way to Blu-ray and DVD on November 9th.
A highly antipcated release, and long developing project, Aretha Franklin herself was actually heavily involved with the film up until her death on August 16, 2018. Featuring a strong cast which includes Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls 2006, Cats 2019) portraying Franklin, Forest Whitaker (Blown Away 1994, ER series) as C. L. Franklin, Aretha’s father, and Marlon Wayans (The Wayans Bros. series, White Chicks 2004) as Ted White, Aretha’s abusive husband and manager, it is also the feature film directorial debut from Liesl Tommy.
Additionally, you have Tituss Burgess (Smurfs: The Lost Village 3027, Dolomite Is My Name 2019) doing an exceptional job as Aretha supporter James Cleveland, plus a smaller part by R&B legend Mary J. Blige as Dinah Washington. All in all, a strong mix of talent involved, how does it all come together and what does it tell us about the Queen of Soul?
Answering both of those questions, it comes together quite well and it includes a whole lot of detail about Aretha Franklin’s life that many of us may have not known. Picking up with Aretha as a young girl, you can immediately see she had a special talent and was quite enthusiastic about it. Unfortunately she faced a great deal of tragedy early on; from losing her mother to physical abuse. This is not to mention that it appears Aretha also faced an uphill challenge of others trying to control every aspect of her life, included her father and her ex-husband Ted White. All these factors in mind Aretha unquestionably had a lot of stress to deal with, inevitably leading to alcohol problems and deep, dark depression.
Details most music fans did not know about the life of Aretha, you would think the story ends in disaster, but as we know, it doesn’t. And that is where the inspiration comes in, because any of these aforementioned life events would the will of break many. Overcoming a list of obstacles, Aretha grew into a successful, strong, independent, free-thinking woman. An iconic figure in the history of music, she learned to stand her ground and not let anyone control who and what she wanted to be.
Naturally, Respect is story well worth telling because it honors one of the most legendary performers of all time. Plus, like any quality music biopic it gives you insight to artist’s humanity. That said, Jennifer Hudson brings the story to life in a magically way. Giving an outstanding, award-winning performance, the former American Idol contestant truly shows her many talents as Aretha. However, beyond any of this, what really stands out is her ability to let the sea of emotion in the character pour out onto the screen. Moreover, this is also a period film, and any of it’s type are made or broken by sets plus wardrobe. In this area Respect gets another high mark because the design is extremely authentic to the era. All in all a very strong tribute to the late great Aretha Franklin, Cryptic Rock gives Respect 4 out of 5 stars.