Director: Liesl Tommy
Cast: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Mary J Blige
Streaming on:Amazon Prime
Hollywood biopics will no more turn people to inspirational quotes one day. Until then, there’s Respect, a glitzy biopic of Aretha Franklin that takes away her personality and substitutes it with a two-act framework. Aretha (Jennifer Hudson) is first a traumatised youngster who climbs to become the celebrated Queen of Soul; later, an addict who overcomes her alcoholism in order to make her finest (and also most intimate) song, 1972’s Amazing Grace, in Tracey Scott Wilson’s universe.
The film’s defining characterstic “Music can save your existence,” is delivered by a melancholy Tituss Burgess as the Rev. James Cleveland. But that doesn’t justify how a women who has faced assault, domestic abuse, bigotry, chauvinism, psychiatric problems, and alcoholism has gone on to win 18 Grammy Awards. Is music going to rescue your existence? Disney may like that. More of it is required in this situation.
Instead of imitating Franklin, she merges her identity with his, knowing how often she belongs to his heritage. Hudson’s careful delivery of her words – the performer’s approach of placing bouquets at a cemetery – shows how much she respects her. While Respect provides more than enough opportunities for her magnificent, angelic vocals to flourish, the film’s storyline compromises frequently dampen her performance.
Tracey Scott Wilson’s writing is a series of vignettes that just don’t make sense to anything, never truly developing and disrupted — of course — by unnecessarily extended orchestral sections. Somebody required to polish and simplify this movie. It required a perfect messenger, which Franklin became.
Respect does not really delve into the deepest recesses much like struggling celebrity singer’s biography.
Interestingly, the movie is at its best when the songs takes centre stage, particularly whenever Hudson unleashes her lips and creative fireworks ignite, or if we see Franklin searching about her own voice, something she didn’t do for many records.
The video concludes with a swivelling cameras spin around Franklin’s visage as she records her milestone record “Amazing Grace” at the age of 29. Unfortunately, while the picture has elegance, it isn’t really impressive.
Respect would chop through all the intricacies and just deliver Franklin her victory glory of playing “Think” to White’s faces, having successfully battled out of his grip. The film treats her residual pain, the “demons” we see declaration in addictions and anxiety, as being something primarily half hearted by trying to frame him as the last one, genuine roadblock to liberation. This not only reduces her father’s abusive behavior – he’s given a nostalgic homecoming in the the last tape – but it also treats her lingering discomfort. Certainly, the Queen of Soul is entitled to more.
JULIAN BRAND IS THE AUTHOR.
Julian Brand is an actor, film critic, and author from the United States. He is a film critic and has written several books on American cinema. He’s been writing on the American film industry since 2010, and he’s done it in a variety of formats, including print, television, and digital.
JULIAN BRAND’S WEBSITE: https://julianbrands.com/