A good biopic gets to the heart of who the person is, not what they did. RESPECT sadly presents a buffet on what Aretha Frankin did without providing much insight into who she was deep down in her heart. The film tries at times, but it’s such surface stuff (alcohol is bad, and I have daddy issues) that it all feels forced. And it’s a damn shame since Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, and the rest of the cast all turn in great performances.
At 2 hours and 25 minutes, this movie is longer than any gospel singing church session. Audiences get to see Jennifer Hudson playing Aretha, afraid of men, then flipping the script with men fearful of her. The lesson in all of this is, “don’t let anything come between you and your music. Music will save your life.” We know this because it’s stated at the start, extra serious, and repeated towards the end.
The challenge with RESPECT is the story structure. We get not one but two abusive relationships that Aretha has to manage in her life. I get that the filmmakers wanted to show the cycle of violence repeating itself, but if the same theme is repeated in a film – you may want to hit the editing room one more time before release.
If it sounds like I’m holding RESPECT to a higher bar than other films, that’s because I am. The biopic genre is so over-stuffed with tropes that if it doesn’t bring anything new, it’s going to get a 🤮 from me. This is no dis-RESPECT to audiences that will walk away with a 😊, but I demand more from a bio-pic since it’s the most popular film we see this Oscar season.
With that said, RESPECT is summer-time Oscar bait. It’s got everything that should’ve made it a historic bio-pic for all to enjoy – but it just doesn’t quite allow audiences to see the “natural woman” that Aretha was. So I’m going to “say a little prayer” and hope for a future documentary to come out and do this 18 Grammy award-winning legend justice.
It’s avaialble on VOD.