Respect (2021)

Liesl Tommy directs Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker and Marlon Wayans in this bog standard Aretha Franklin biopic.

I had high hopes for this as Hudson is such unsurpassable casting in the central role. Yet it ploughs the musical life story sub-genre’s well dug furrows with a complete lack of imagination. Scenes after scene of quite traumatising tragedy is given little impact as it feels like a box ticking exercise rather than a storytelling challenge. Towards the end there is the unintentional vibe that Aretha actually needed a domineering violent man in her life to stop her going off the rails. That can’t be what they were hoping to convey, surely? The middle section where she finds her sound and develops her voice and autonomy allows Hudson to shine. The other stuff is very meh considering it takes in child abuse, wife beating and alcoholic breakdowns. Welcome support from Whitaker and Marc Maron keep Respect from being a complete disappointment. And, it almost goes without saying, the soundtrack is exceptional. Lacking the cheese of Bohemian Rhapsody or the rare qualities of Walk The Line this truly needed to make more definitive narrative choices to standout.


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