Taking us from her life as a choir singer to the ‘Queen of Soul’, the biopic Respect, centres on the trials and tribulations of Ms Aretha Franklin.
I never understood when my parents would say, ‘I remember where I was standing when such and such famous celebrity died…’. I wondered why they cared, or why it had left such a meaningly memory to them. They didn’t know them so what was it to them?
That was until the 16th of August 2018, when the ‘Queen of Soul’, passed.
Sitting in my bedroom, funnily enough listening to Chain of Fools, when a notification came up on my screen from BBC News, announcing the death. I went straight to YouTube to find my favourite video of Ms Franklin which was her singing Natural Woman to Carole King at the 2015 Kennedy Centre Honours Tribute and cried as I tried to process the news. Safe to say, Franklin’s music was playing around my house for the rest of the night.
It’s different when a role model dies, because although you never met them or knew them, they still made a big impact in your life. I have been a fan of Aretha since I was nine or ten years old after hearing her song Respect for the first time. That song made me fall in love with soul music, as well as the history and words behind it. In a way that song made me fall in love with music.
So, you can undoubtedly imagine my excitement for this movie. Fans, like me, have been waiting patiently for the adaption to be released, but now we finally get to see Jennifer Hudson grace our screens with what some people are calling an Oscar-worthy performance.
Having been hand-picked by Franklin herself, Hudson was certainly the best actress to play the ‘Queen of Soul’, Hudson not too shy of being one herself. Perfectly portraying Aretha, Hudson hones the mixture of insecurity, determination, and creativity that Ms Franklin held. But she kept her own singing voice, creating a blended mix of her voice and her own interpretation of the star’s voice.
Tony Award nominee, Lisel Tommy directed the star-studded film and has the pleasure of directing the multi-talented cast, including Forest Whitaker, and Marlon Wayans, playing C.L. Franklin and Ted White respectively.
The film begins in 1952, Detroit, with a young Aretha, played by the magnificent Skye Dakota Turner, being awoken by her father to perform at just nine years old to his array of friends at a dinner party.
Making her Hollywood debut, Turner displays both musical perfection and acting supremacy in the long-awaited film. Being so young, the writing was not wrong when they said her voice was ‘going on thirty’. The sheer soul that came from Turner proves that this was her role for the taking.
The story progresses all the way to 1972 and finishes with Ms Franklin recording her Amazing Grace album. In between, the biopic showcases the tragic death of her mother, two pregnancies before the age of sixteen, controlling father, over-shadowed sisters, political campaigning, and abusive husband who inspired some of her greatest hits.
Although the story touches on these subjects, with the movie only having a running time of 145 minutes, it is extremely difficult to go into detail. Therefore, we are left with a sanitised version of Franklin’s life. The songstress deserves more than just a film to showcase of her life.
However, the storyline really only had two notes. First, the protagonist being a child of trauma, a mother at twelve, who pushes past her boundaries to become a world-famous star. Then, the ‘Queen of Soul’ becomes an alcoholic, with many albums under her belt who is tirelessly campaigning for civil rights. The writing just seemed a little too predictable and rudimentary.
Additionally, the film portrays Ms Franklin as someone who jumps from man to man, allowing them to take complete and utter control over her. First her father being the uptight, strict manager who tries to create the perfect daughter to her first husband, White, being the abusive husband and manager riding on the success of Ms Franklin. However, this part of the film does grant us with a staged concert rendition of Think, when she finally gets her freedom from White as she sings to him in the audience.
Packed with an all-star cast and award-winning music, the poignant tribute to Aretha Franklin’s legacy was entertaining, emotional, and soulful. But the film was simplistic, just like many biopics, and left me wanting more. However, that did not stop me from loving the film. I would still recommend this movie to anyone because it is a must-watch and on its way to snag many awards.
Respect in Cinemas Now.
Written by Niamh McCabe