Respect Movie Review

The rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s choir to her international superstardom, RESPECT is the remarkable true story of the music icon’s journey to find her voice.

Directed and written by Liesl Tommy, Respect has grace and vulnerability that can be understood from a female’s point of view.

The movie takes us into Franklin’s developmental and growing moments: from when she discovered her gift for singing as a child, to the unimaginable loss of her beloved mother, to the emotionally abusive spaces taken up by the most prominent male figures of her life, All of this plays out on the screen while Franklin battles her inner demons whenever her spirit was unable to handle all of the emotional unrest.

Aretha Franklin, had a plethora of achievements to be proud of, all ranging from being an American singer, songwriter, pianist, civil rights activist, record producer, and so much more. However, while that’s what most audiences are aware of, many aren’t familiar with the past tragedies that she had to go through in her personal life. That’s what this film attempts to explore during its duration. Director Liesl Tommy does her best to fit all of Aretha Franklin’s life stories into a two-hour and thirty-minute film.

All the characters in the movie have fulfilled their roles with a very commendable performance, giving justice and depth to their characters.

As a kid, my parents always had music playing in the background, playing their favorite tracks from the 60s and 70s. One of the tracks that I always remembered was ‘R-E’S-P-E-C-T’. Seeing this song come together on the big screen gave me goosebumps.

Early in the film what’s great is the amount of detail focused on Aretha’s younger years as a child. Instead of just highlighting the fact that she could sing well, and was passionate about it, we get to see her whole support system.

Aretha’s past is dark, to say the least. She went through horrific hardships that one should never have to encounter, helping the audience understand the foundation on which Aretha grew up.

What I enjoyed watching from this film was just seeing Aretha during her happiest moments making music. It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows when she was in the recording studio, but the film did a great job of showing how much she grew as a person over the years and that came out during her rehearsals.

Jennifer Hudson does her best, especially her expression during her silent moments dealing with her inner demons and her struggle made you understand the pain she was going through.

Marlon Wayans plays Aretha’s late husband Ted White, he did an outstanding job making you fall in love with his character early on in the film but then making you despise him later with his abuse.

The crown however goes to Forest Whitaker as Aretha’s father, C.L. Franklin. The film made it very clear that he wanted to protect his daughter at all cost, or maybe he was just extremely territorial over his offspring in overbearing ways. He was scary onscreen at times, which in context could be a good thing. He most likely will be the most remembered in this film. Jennifer and Forest have great chemistry on screen and with these two playing father and daughter for the third time in a film, it shows they know how to work together.

Respect plays more like a musical than a biopic, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying every performance, Hudson sounds more like herself than Franklin — but at the end of the day, there is only one Queen of Soul. This film does exactly what the title suggests: it dutifully pays respect to one of the greatest artists of our time. 

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