RESPECT follows the life of Aretha Franklin from a young girl to a grown woman. Skye Dakato Turner, who plays young Aretha, would be getting Oscar consideration if not for the powerful performance as The Queen of Soul that is turned in by Jennifer Hudson. She embodies the essence of Aretha Franklin and gives her most powerful performance yet in her acting career.
Surprisingly the film is directed by a first time director, Liesl Tommy. She pushes all of the right emotional buttons to keep this otherwise long movie (2 hours and 25 minutes) moving at a breakneck pace. Hudson portrays Franklin during the peak of her career from the 1960's to the 1970's. While the movie also covers Aretha's early life and also goes into the 80's and 90's the movie stays in the sweet spot of the prime of her career when she earned the title "The Queen of Soul."
RESPECT is so much kinder to Aretha than the doc-series ARETHA-GENIUS which aired earlier this year on National Geographic. While RESPECT does show all of the ugliness in Aretha's life (her pregnancy at the age of 10 which was caused by a rape, her battle with addiction, her issues with domestic violence at the hands of her husband, Ted White, played by Marlon Wayans, and her control issues by her father Reverend C. L. Franklin, it portrays Aretha Franklin in a much more sympathetic light. The movie gives Ms. Franklin the RESPECT that she deserves.
In the movie Hudson doesn't imitate Aretha Franklin while singing her songs. Instead she sings the songs in the movie as her own while paying homage to the queen. The music will take you to church and Hudson's version of "Ain't No Way' put a lump in my throat that had me fighting back tears. All of the songs are just that powerful.
Mary J. Blige play's Dinah Washington in the movie and Audra McDonald portrays Aretha's mother. The cast is stellar but it's Hudson who carries this movie. She has that magic on screen that just won't let you take your eyes off of her. RESPECT is an early Oscar contender in my book. The acting, directing and of course the music may be the best I've seen this year.
RESPECT is rated PG-13 and on my "Hollywood Popcorn Scale" I'll give this movie my highest rating. A JUMBO with extra butter.