Put Some Respect On It

The Stream: Same biopic plot, different subject.

The Big Screen: The music and musical performances are must see.

The Final Bill: The Queen of Soul gets a respectful tribute with a strong central performance.

– Trip Fontaine
Director: Liesl Tommy
Writers: Tracey Scott Wilson (screenplay by); Tracey Scott Wilson and Callie Khouri (story by)
Stars: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans
Genre: Biopic, Music, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours 25 minutes
Production Companies: MGM, Bron Studios, Cinesite
Platform: In theaters starting August 13, 2021

It seems like so long that we’ve been talking about this Aretha Franklin biopic coming out, and now, it’s finally here. Yes, Streamers, Respect was released in theaters this weekend – almost 3 years to the day after the Queen of Soul left the building. Many know the highlights of Ms. Franklin’s story, but now, Jennifer Hudson get to to flex her singing and acting chops to honor this musical legend. Let’s see how she does.

In Respect, we get a glimpse of Ms. Franklin’s life from the precocious musical prodigy through the tumultuous times until the triumphant and transcendent production of her “Amazing Grace” recording. The plot of a biopic can be cliched and filled with tropes that bog down biographical movies. Respect is no different. Even though these tropes depict what occurred in the subject’s life, it would be interesting if one of these musical biopics found a way to tell its story without dwelling on what’s already been told. Nevertheless, in this one, there is the no-good husband, there is the domineering and indulgent father, there is the sexual abuse, there is the alcohol abuse and there is the “come to Jesus” moment for Ms. Franklin. Although the film is packed with biopic cliches, at least, each step of the way is enjoyable and well-told. Since the story is not told in any novel way, it really is just about the music and the performance by Jennifer Hudson that make Respect worthwhile.

Yes, Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar for playing Effie White in Dreamgirls. That was a performance that built to one moment of singing that most likely clenched that award for her. I can’t say there was a lot of “acting”. Here, Hudson gives a valiant effort in playing Ms. Franklin. She does a good job of finding her speaking voice and physical mannerism. There is a lot of “respect” in this performance. But, you really came for the songs and the singing; and that’s where Jennifer Hudson truly kills it. She doesn’t sound like Ms. Franklin, but Hudson sing all of the feeling and bombast in each song. She’s great.

I will say that the film is kind of long. It takes a while to get going, but it picks up around the time Ms. Franklin starts arranging “Respect”. Once the hits start rolling, the soundtrack takes over and time starts to pass much more quickly. The movie devolves into a highlight reel of the Aretha hits a bit, but that’s not much of a complaint when the songs and singing are as good as they are. You’ll rarely be bored even if you know where it’s going and how it will get there. But, that’s a biopic for ya!

S2S: Official Rating Scale

Ultimately, Respect is just another biopic about a musical legend. There isn’t anything new or interesting in the storytelling as it seems all musicians have taken the same life journey. Jennifer Hudson is a good reason to see Respect with her interesting performance as Ms. Franklin and her considerable vocal talent. As the hits start rolling through, Ain’t No Way I Think you should miss this, Chain of Fools. Respect that with a box of popcorn.