Capturing the full depth and experience of a person’s life in a single movie is a challenge. Even more so when that person is as loved and cherished as the late Aretha Franklin.
Delayed several months due to the pandemic, “Respect” opened in theaters Friday. Breaking with a recent trend of new movies being released simultaneously to streaming platforms and theaters, “Respect” is only available in theaters.
A year before her passing, Franklin selected actor and singer Jennifer Hudson to take on the role. In an interview with USA Today, Hudson said she was given the role on one condition.
“She did remind me that she was the Queen of Soul and just as long as we had that understanding,” shared Hudson. “I said, ‘Yes ma’am, I know my place, and I respect that.'”
Hudson is no stranger to recreating big-screen magic. The “Dreamgirls” actor blew audiences away as Effie White.
But taking on the role of one’s idol is a huge task. Speaking with the Detroit Free Press, Hudson shared she gained a newfound respect for Franklin after going through this process.
“It gave a new perspective, the drive as an artist, and what we can do with our responsibilities and our platforms,” explained Hudson. “She used her platform to be an advocate for so many things. Did she have to? No. But the fact she did means that much more.”
Hudson even gained the respect of Carole King, the woman who wrote the hit for the late Franklin. King told Variety that Hudson contributed so much to the movie.
The movie received mixed reviews, with critics seemingly split on how to approach the movie. A review from NPR’s Fresh Air found the movie fell into the usual clichés in musician biopics, but there were still glimpses of Franklin’s genius throughout. This review
Deadline called Hudson electrifying as she took on the role of her idol. Pete Hammond wrote that Hudson “delivers and then some, not only as you might expect in the vocal department but also with a towering dramatic performance.”
Writing for PureWow, Nakeisha Campbell called “Respect” a must-see movie, giving it five out of five stars. “Anyone who watches this film will walk away with a deeper appreciation for the legendary soul singer and activist,” wrote Campbell.
Other reviews took a more critical approach to the movie, saying Franklin deserved better than the same old movie formula. Film critic Robert Daniels described “loathing” the movie. In a very critical review for Vulture, Daniels pulled apart several aspects of the film that felt rushed by the writer.
Buzzfeed reporter Michael Blackmon found the movie didn’t quite gel into a complete narrative. Blackmon found the movie omitted dark but critical details of the singer’s story that were front and center in the “Genius” miniseries from National Geographic.
“Genius” did not have the backing of Franklin’s family, drawing requests that real fans not watch. Starring Streaming on Hulu, “Genius” delved deeper into accounts of the singer’s background, including the ugly reality of her father’s indiscretions which Blackmon points to as a major shortcoming in “Respect.”
Hudson is joined by a star-studded cast, including Mary J. Blige, Forrest Whitaker, Audra McDonald, and Marlon Wayans.
Whether the reviews will sway fans is yet to be seen. For many fans seeing the recreation of their favorite musicians’ greatest performances is worth the watch. The opportunity to see those pivotal moments come to life often outweighs perceived flaws in the storyline.
Have you seen “Respect”? Let us know what you think!