‘Respect’ supersedes expectations

Jennifer Hudson shines in star role

Fair use from United Artists

Fair use from United Artists

Jacob Khabie

There are few ways to adequately portray the impact of Aretha Franklin on music and culture today. Not only did the “Queen of Soul” bring us timeless hits, but she also used her voice for good — advocating for changemakers like Martin Luther King Jr. and Angela Davis. However, “Respect” defies presumption, going on to construct a star-studded mural of Aretha Franklin’s life.

“Respect”, released Aug. 13, follows the life and struggles of Aretha Franklin from the time she was 12 to the release of her album “Amazing Grace.” The film follows Franklin (Jennifer Hudson) through the various struggles she faced, such as deaths of close family members, abusive relationships and alcoholism. 

This review would not be giving “Respect” justice if I didn’t mention the masterful display of acting and vocals presented by Jennifer Hudson. Hudson’s talent is by no means a surprise, but in her portrayal of Aretha Franklin, Hudson once again blows audiences away with her voice and her ability to portray Franklin’s struggles. Hudson is supported by a star-studded cast, including Broadway stars like Audra McDonald and Hailey Kilgore, as well as movie stars like Marlon Wayans and Forest Whitaker.

Another striking detail of “Respect” was the amount of thought put into the sets and costumes. Although the film takes place over the course of many decades, the creative team masterfully transports viewers back to 1950s Detroit as well as 1970s New York. The wardrobe team of “Respect” also perfectly recreated some of Aretha Franklin’s iconic looks for the film, such as the outfit worn for the filming of the “Amazing Grace” album.

My few criticisms of “Respect” lie in its structure and form. While “Respect” is a movie, it doesn’t quite feel as such. The scenes, especially towards the beginning of the film, are short, rushed and don’t quite connect with one another, showing Franklin’s life in vignettes rather than fully fledged scenes. Although this structure may mirror Franklin’s fast-paced rise to the top, it leaves viewers wanting more character development, which we don’t quite get until the second half of the film. Additionally, “Respect” was nearly as much music as it was dialogue. While this did allow for the cast to show off their vocal talents, there was a missed opportunity to allow the music to advance the plot in a musical-type fashion. Instead, the songs are somewhat randomly placed and often don’t fit with the overall atmosphere of the scenes.

While “Respect” did have some flaws, overall, the film blew me away. It is not only a visual and musical masterpiece, but a beautiful portrayal of the life of Aretha Franklin. “Respect” is the perfect fit not only for fans of Franklin, but for anyone who appreciates good story-telling and plenty of amazing songs.

“Respect”: ★★★★☆