Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, is one of the most legendary voices in all of music. Her musical biopic, “Respect,” is a biopic that does justice to the singer. Filled with fantastic performances, “Respect” is on its way to becoming a critical darling and an Oscar contender in the coming months.
Where else can you begin but Jennifer Hudson? After all, she was hand-picked by Aretha Franklin herself to portray her in a biopic years ago, and she does an amazing job of emulating Franklin in her performance. It’s next level, and no offense to Taron Egerton, who did his own singing as Elton John in “Rocketman,” but Hudson does far and away a much better job doing justice to Franklin’s original music. Not to be forgotten, Skye Dakota Turner was also fantastic as younger Aretha; who plays a critical part in the opening 10-15 minutes of the film.
Forest Whitaker plays Aretha’s father, C.L. Franklin, along with Marlon Wayans, who plays Ted White, Aretha’s first husband, are both standouts. The latter is sinister at times, the polar opposite from his last role in “On The Rocks.” Both are crucial parts of Aretha’s life, and their performances were perfect for the film.
The best scenes in “Respect” are in the scenes where Hudson is performing on stage or in the studio. The recreation of the atmospheres of venues such as Madison Square Garden is remarkable, and scenes in the studio bring a fun energy that you can’t help but tap your foot to.
Unfortunately, like most musical biopics recently (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Rocketman”), “Respect” cannot outrun the demons of conventions in the musical biopic genre. For example, Respect has a scene where she finally steps up and leaves her toxic partner, something you see in both of the previously mentioned musical biopics. The scene where Franklin is on-stage while drunk and she ends up falling off the stage was eerily similar to the scene in “Rocketman” where Elton falls off of the diving board. While these scenes in Respect may be based on true events, that can’t stop the fact that they felt so familiar. Even the scene where Franklin attempts to push her family members away felt like an obligatory scene in these types of movies. Now in fairness, these scenes did help the overall story flow and kept the pacing, they just felt repetitive.
If Renée Zellweger can win an Oscar for her performance as Judy Garland, Jennifer Hudson will surely be in the running for her performance in “Respect.” That isn’t meant to be a knock on Zellweger as much as a testament to how good Hudson is in Respect. Her range from the dramatic moments (which are extremely powerful) to the singing performances are top-notch. It’s a bit bloated at 145 minutes, and most of it has been played out before, but “Respect” is a biopic that definitely earns just that for the great Queen of Soul in great part to the powerhouse performance of Jennifer Hudson.