‘Respect’ Review: 5 Out of 5 Stars—Why This New Biopic Is a Must-Watch for Aretha & J-Hud Fans
Warning: Spoilers ahead
Within the first 10 minutes of Respect, I felt goosebumps down my arm.
A young Aretha Franklin (Skye Dakota Turner) passionately sang for her father’s guests in the opening scene—and I felt like I was in the thick of it, clapping along with the characters as little “Re” hit high notes that normally only a seasoned vocalist could pull off. Fortunately, this number was just a taste of what was to come, because throughout the rest of the film, I found myself totally captivated by Jennifer Hudson's performance (who plays the adult Franklin). After two hours of show-stopping vocals and stellar performances by the rest of the cast, I was literally on the verge of tears as Hudson sang “Amazing Grace.”
For those who aren't familiar with the upcoming biopic, which hits theaters on August 13, it follows the soul legend’s personal life and career, from her difficult childhood and Christian upbringing to her civil rights activism and rise to fame during the '60s. Now that I’ve seen it, I can say that I have an even deeper respect for Franklin. Not just because it highlights her influence as the Queen of Soul, but also because it sheds light on her humanity and sheer resilience.
As a fan who knew very little about Franklin’s personal life, watching this movie felt a bit like pulling back the curtains on her dazzling career. It was heartbreaking to see all the challenges that she had to deal with behind the scenes, from domestic abuse and alcoholism to the loss of her mother. Still, I was relieved to see that Respect didn’t use these dark moments to exploit her pain. They were handled with care, revealing just enough to give fans a full picture, but focusing more on how these moments shaped both her and her music.
For example, I could see how her overbearing father’s actions pushed her to find her own voice, how her troubled marriage inspired some of her biggest hits (from “Think” to “Respect”) and how her private struggle with alcoholism led her straight back to her Christian faith—a pivotal moment that would inspire her most successful album.
As engrossed as I was by Franklin’s backstory, I was even more impressed by the talented main cast. Hudson (who was hand-picked by Franklin herself) totally surrendered herself to this role and truly captured the soul icon, all the way down to her voice, bold personality and style. Tituss Burgess flexed his acting muscles as Franklin's patient mentor, James Cleveland. Forest Whitaker was phenomenal as her father, aka the man with the "Million-Dollar Voice." And Marlon Wayans, best known for his comedy, was very convincing (and quite frankly, terrifying) as Franklin’s abusive husband and manager, Ted White.
Respect took me through a rollercoaster of emotions, but I enjoyed getting an in-depth look at the woman behind the big voice and I love that the film touched on her involvement in the civil rights movement. Anyone who watches this film will walk away with a deeper appreciation for the legendary soul singer and activist.
PureWow Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Jennifer Hudson gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Aretha Franklin in this biopic, which is sure to tug at your heartstrings and make you fall even more in love with the Queen of Soul.
For a full breakdown of PureWow's entertainment rating system, click here.
Want top shows and movies sent right to your inbox? Click here.