Friday, November 19, 2021

Movie Review: RESPECT (2021)

Written by: Josh "The Merc" Raynor

When someone mentions soul music, one name instantly springs to mind for me, and that is, of course, the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin. Her music transcends generations in a way that most artists can only dream of, so when I heard there was a new film coming out about her life, I was intrigued. My interest was piqued even more after learning that the incredibly talented Jennifer Hudson would be playing this iconic role. 

This isn’t the first time the former American Idol finalist has taken on a singing role in a film, as she gave a knockout performance in the 2006 film, Dreamgirls. The film took inspiration from the history of the Motown record label, specifically The Supremes, and Hudson played a character that was based on Supremes member Florence Ballard. However, that was a fictionalized version of these people, unlike this film, which dives into reality.  

Respect takes a look at the early life of one of the most influential recording artists of all time, Aretha Franklin. Throughout the film, she struggles with her past and the emotional demons it brings with it, while creating a powerful legacy that has continued to live on, generation after generation. The film starts off when Aretha, known as “Re Re”, was a child. We see how she handles being from a broken home and the influences her parents had on her. We also learn about an unthinkable traumatic event that happens to her, which left me angry. Not at the film, but at the character involved and the situation as a whole. It’s something I was unaware of, and I’m curious how many others will be shocked by the revelation. 

During those first 20 minutes of the film, little Aretha Franklin was played by the absolutely incredible young actress, Skye Dakota Turner, who belted out some breathtaking melodies one moment, and gave a heartbreaking, and award-worthy, performance the next. She had me in tears, and the main crux of the film hadn’t even begun. I hope to see her in more, as her powerhouse performance here has made her more than deserving. The role of Ms. Franklin was then handed over to Jennifer Hudson, who is such an amazing singer, and we really got to see her show off that talent in this film.  

Hudson’s portrayal of this icon was simply awe-inspiring, whether she’s playing a meek, subdued young woman just entering the business, a powerful, in-charge musical juggernaut, or an on-the-edge, life collapsing mess. She commanded the screen no matter what scene she was in, even against actors like Forest Whitaker, Mary J. Blige, & even Marlon Wayans, who steps away from the comedy in an impressive way. 

The only issue I had was the runtime. Coming in at just under two-and-a-half hours, it felt a bit bloated at times. The saving grace when it comes to that, though, was the fact that it is chock full of amazing performances and musical moments to move the soul. That’ll get you through most things in life. 

Respect tells the story a woman, fighting her past to make way for her future, while rediscovering her faith and who she is. This is all done without tarnishing the name of this legendary woman, but it also doesn’t hold back. It shows her darker side, but also shows her redemption, which leads her to become the woman we all knew and loved. This was a great biopic, so do yourself a favor and check it out. 


The Merc’s Score: 8/10



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