Respect is a biopic focusing on the life and legacy of the “queen of soul”, Aretha Franklin, depicting her journey from young choir singer to international star.
The feature’s primary focus is on the singer’s rise to global stardom, chronicling the interpersonal and institutional hurdles she overcame as a black woman performing in the 60s, as well as the ways she revolutionised the music world. The film also pays lip service to the artist’s involvement in the American civil rights movement, although this plot thread is unfortunately often left by the wayside in favour of her musical career.
At times it feels like the piece is hesitant to address the deeper traumas in Franklin’s life, which can leave this account of her feeling somewhat hollow, but it nevertheless delivers a strong, if predictable, narrative core. With a runtime of two hours and 25 minutes, it’s a shame that the picture neglects to properly explore more of the story beats it lays out, but to its credit it ensures the time is used so that everything is addressed by the end.
Biographies like this live and die on the strength of their leading role, and Jennifer Hudson is fantastic as Franklin. She delivers a strong and emotive performance that carries the narrative, as well as providing excellent vocals for the film’s many songs. Hudson’s brilliant depiction is backed up by a similarly strong cast – in particular, Forest Whitaker and Marlon Wayans provide great counterparts as Aretha’s father and ex-husband respectively, working off their co-star’s performance and allowing her to bring out new sides to her representation of the artist.
Very entertaining and fittingly full of soul, Respect is a touching tribute to a life lived loudly and proudly. As biopics go, it tends slightly towards the sanitised and simplistic, but more or less manages to get away with it on the back of strong performances from its cast as well as the passion and style on display.
Respect is released nationwide on 10th September 2021.
Watch the trailer for Respect here: