Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
Respect is a biographical musical drama based on the life and career of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The film is aptly named after one of her most iconic songs, “Respect”, originally written and recorded by Otis Redding. Franklin’s arrangement of the famous song released in 1967 and became an anthem for Civil Rights and Women’s Rights. Respect also went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 that same year.
Actress Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls, Cats) stars as Franklin and her powerful performance propels the biopic into the territory of facing one’s demons and channeling the pain into something that not only moved the iconic singer but millions of fans all over the world.
Respect runs a little over two and half hours and follows at least 20 years of Franklin’s life. At the beginning of the film she is already nine years old and her father, C.L. Franklin (Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker), is already an established Baptist minister. Due to his status, the Franklins’ connections with talented gospel and soul artists such as Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, James Cleveland, Sam Cooke, and Dinah Washington (played by Mary J. Blige) are all depicted. However, it would be the Franklins’ association with the late Martin Luther King Jr. that would ignite the singer’s passion for African American civil rights and women’s rights. Franklin was very vocal in expressing her views to the public when political activist Angela Davis was arrested back in 1970.
The film also portrays the singer’s struggles with childhood traumas. In the film, her father would refer to her self-destructive side as her demon. From an extremely early age the songbird was forced to internalise her traumatic experiences until she learned to belt out her pain and emotions into her songs.
Franklin’s early life and career were controlled by two extremely domineering male figures in her life, the first being her father and the second her first husband, American songwriter and producer Ted White (Marlon Wayans).
Both men, who coincidentally were her managers at one point, sought to control every aspect of her life, and use her talents for their benefit. Wayans’ performance as White surprised me quite a bit both with the deepness of his voice and also seeing an actor who is normally associated with the comedic genre playing the role of an abusive and aggressive man. He was great in the role, but it just threw me a bit.
Biographical films are frequently criticised for their historical inaccuracies and Respect does contain a few of these, but they are not significant in my humble opinion. And these inaccuracies do entertain despite taking liberties with the material.
In the grand scheme of things, the strength of the film lies within its authentic atmosphere due to the strong performances, excellent period set designs, and finally the epic recreations of some of Franklin’s most iconic outfits.
My final thoughts are that Aretha Franklin was an extremely talented songwriter and singer who kept her secrets so tightly locked up within herself that it almost destroyed her, and this is evident when she turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism. In the end, she realised that she needed to go back to her gospel roots to reclaim her identity and not let her demon (trauma) consume her. Franklin undertook the “Amazing Grace” project in 1972 by performing in front of a live audience for two consecutive nights at the New Temple Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles. It became her greatest artistic statement and the biggest selling album of her career and became certified double platinum.
The film ensures that the Queen of Soul’s legacy remains intact with more than just a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Alice’s Score: 7 out of 10
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Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. Read More