Starring: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans
Director: Liesl Tommy
Running Time: 145 mins
Respect is an American film about the life of legendary singer Aretha Franklin, from her origins as a child prodigy to the tumultuous early years of her career, and eventually rising to become the ‘Queen of Soul’.
An incredible talent like Aretha Franklin deserves an incredible film to tell her story, and I’m afraid to say that Respect isn’t it. While a perfectly fine, passable biopic with a strong lead performance from Jennifer Hudson, there’s nothing outstanding about Respect, which simply goes through the motions over the course of its rather overlong 145-minute runtime.
If you’ve seen any major music biopic before, from Walk The Line to Bohemian Rhapsody, you can pretty much figure out what’s going on here. Despite the fact that it tells the unique life story of Aretha Franklin, Respect feels more like a paint-by-numbers affair, simply listing some of the major events in her life without ever really getting down to its crux and telling a great story.
The film is still an engaging watch, and it reaches its peak in the middle act, where we really see Franklin start to come out of her shell, the music begin to pick up in tempo, and lead actress Jennifer Hudson also ramp up the energy levels a little more.
That comes after a fairly lacklustre opening act which, despite being the emotional core of the story and Franklin’s later life and career, is strangely underwhelming, skipping over many of the most important beats that would make her story stand out even more, and add even more depth to the later stages of the film.
Even with its long runtime, Respect seems to rush its way through the opening act without diving just a little deeper into the events of Franklin’s childhood which seem to have had such an impact on her through her life.
Unfortunately, because the film does skip over so much in the early stages, it’s difficult to connect with Franklin as a character as the film goes on, and although she experiences some dreadful lows while her star rises, the film never has much emotional resonance, simply going through the motions of the typical music biopic.
And that’s a real shame, because there is energy and emotion behind the scenes here, with a passionate performance from Jennifer Hudson that, despite not being on the same vocal level as Aretha Franklin, portrays her in a captivating light, as well as a few musical numbers which feature a glimmer of the emotional power that Respect should have been striving for all the way through.
In short, Respect is a disappointing take on Aretha Franklin’s life and career. While it’s a perfectly passable film, there’s nothing extraordinary about it, following a rushed paint-by-numbers formula that neglects a number of emotionally captivating events and themes which could have lent so much more depth to the film as a whole. So, that’s why I’m giving Respect a 7.0 overall.