After several delayed openings, due to the corona pandemic, the long awaited and anticipated Aretha Franklin biopic, ‘Respect’ finally hits our screens, featuring front and centre, a dynamic, powerhouse performance from Oscar winner, Jennifer Hudson, portraying Aretha. It should be noted The Queen of Soul herself gave full approval of the casting of Hudson, who leads an excellent cast of actors who all deliver worthy support to a somewhat formulaic telling of Franklin’s life.

Respect 3.jpg (38 KB)  We see Aretha at a young age (Skye Dakota Turner) already being paraded by her over bearing father, Rev. C.L. Franklin (Forest Whittaker), a famous preacher, to his friends and congregation, which include music stars Sam Cooke and Dinah Washington (Mary J. Blige delivering a memorable cameo) and Martin Luther King.

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The film follows Aretha’s journey from her church beginnings right through to the 1972 live recording and filming of what would not only be the most successful gospel album of all time, but would be Franklin’s biggest selling record, ‘Amazing Grace’. Along the way we witness her first marriage to the abusive and violent Ted White (comic actor Marlon Wayans definitely playing against type and delivering the goods), Aretha getting her first record contract with Columbia Records, then heading to Atlantic Records where all the classic hits made her a worldwide sensation. And many of her major hits are included in the film, sung with immense conviction and feeling by Jennifer Hudson. She seems to embody the spirit of Aretha Franklin when singing these iconic songs and one cannot help she may be Oscar bound once again. However, her talent is not just confined to song, as she must convey through her acting the main theme of the movie, which is respect. Whether it be her father, her husband, record company executives or other people around her, Aretha’s fight is for respect. Successful, though she may be, the struggle is there. There are also inner demons, hints of early abuse, pain from the loss of her mother and the rivalry between her own sisters.

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   There is no doubt in my mind this film stands up and is both enjoyable and at times quite moving and the central core is Jennifer Hudson’s performance. However, I should add there were some glaring omissions that I believe should have been included. There was no mention of Cissy Houston (Whitney’s mother), who with her group, Sweet Inspirations sang back up for Aretha for many years.  On ‘Ain’t No Way’ Cissy sings with Aretha, while the film has her replaced by Aretha’s sister, Erma. Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun and producers Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin, who all contributed greatly to many of Aretha’s biggest hits, are simply not mentioned. I also found it odd that two major songs that Aretha wrote herself; ‘Rock Steady’ and ‘Day Dreaming’ were not included in the film. That being said, if for nothing else, ‘Respect’ should be seen for Jennifer Hudson, who gives it her all.

The film is in theatres right no

A review by Eon Irving who presents "Rhythm & News" on a Wednesday night and "The Jazz Infusion" on a Sunday night

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