This review is a lot later than I expected it to be, but it’s better late than never! Earlier in the month, I had the luxury to digitally rent RESPECT (2021), the biographical movie about the Queen of Soul, the late Ms. Aretha Franklin’s early life until her most successful album during her career. I will first say that I absolutely enjoyed the film and was more than happy to witness the phenomenal portrayal of Aretha Franklin by the incomparable Jennifer Hudson.
I did not watch the documentary series that was released earlier in the year that chronicled Ms. Franklin’s life out of “respect” to the fact that Ms. Franklin, nor her family, did not sanction this version of her story. Typically when a documentary or film is released on a person’s life, the family and or the subject themselves will approve material and artifacts used.
Since Ms. Franklin suggested that Jennifer Hudson portray her in her biopic, this was more than a blessing; this was destiny. As I watched the film and all of the interviews that surrounded the film production, Ms. Franklin and Ms. Hudson’s lives paralleled in several instances. Both women experienced the loss of their mothers at critical points in their lives. Both women have had similar accounts during their musical careers.
Both women have endured what it means to be a black woman in America while being a public figure and influencer. A few weeks before the movie premiered in both theaters and on digital platforms, the world was reminded that Hudson performed one of Aretha’s songs for her American Idol audition, further connecting their lives and paths.
In all, I felt the movie was beautifully executed. I’m also appreciative that the film featured much of her life up to the success of her Amazing Grace live album recording in 1972. I’ve read that many people weren’t very fond of this ending, but I felt that it was great. Everyone is aware of her life story after the gospel album recording. However, it was the era before she was considered the Queen of Soul that is most undiscussed. Aside from her literary biography that was released more than 20 years ago, her career’s earlier successes and failures were often glossed over, in my opinion.
I watched an interview with the director of RESPECT. I found that she said the purpose of stopping the film before the audience saw the Queen of Soul as her legacy purports to show the factors that crafted and solidified her star power and influence in soul music. Many of Aretha’s personal experiences, from the abusive relationships since childhood to her estranged relationship with her father, served as catalysts for what shaped Aretha into the robust, determined, and influential vessel she became.
The film’s key players and actors did an excellent job portraying the various acquaintances and familial relationships in Franklin’s life. I certainly hope that awards are ISSUED (see recent articles regarding award show winner snubs) for their portrayal as they were definitely earned by all of the actors involved in the beautiful project. By now, you’ve had the opportunity to experience the film in the theater or in your own home. But if you haven’t, please go do so now. Like right now. What on earth could you be waiting for? 🙂