Thursday, August 12, 2021

Respect Review: Jennifer Hudson Slays As The Queen of Soul

Jennifer Hudson	...	Aretha Franklin Forest Whitaker	Forest Whitaker	...	C. L. Franklin Audra McDonald	Audra McDonald	...	Barbara Franklin Saycon Sengbloh	Saycon Sengbloh	...	Erma Franklin Hailey Kilgore	Hailey Kilgore	...	Carolyn Franklin Brenda Nicole Moorer	Brenda Nicole Moorer	...	Brenda Franklin Marlon Wayans	Marlon Wayans	...	Ted White Marc Maron	Marc Maron	...	Jerry Wexler Tituss Burgess	Tituss Burgess	...	Reverend Dr. James Cleveland Kimberly Scott	Kimberly Scott	...	Mama Franklin LeRoy McClain	LeRoy McClain	...	Cecil Franklin Tate Donovan	Tate Donovan	...	John Hammond Albert Jones	Albert Jones	...	Ken Cunningham Beau Scheier	Beau Scheier	...	Joe Arnold Myk Watford	Myk Watford	...	Rick Hall David Simpson	David Simpson	...	Spooner Oldham Nevaeh Moore	Nevaeh Moore	...	Young Carolyn William J. Simmons	William J. Simmons	...	Clarence

Release date: August 13, 2021
Running time: 145 minutes
Director: Liesl Tommy
Writer: Tracey Scott Wilson
Cast: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Kimberly Scott, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Heather Headley, Skye Dakota Turner, Tate Donovan and Mary J. Blige

Following the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom, RESPECT is the remarkable true story of the music icon’s journey to find her voice.

Skye Dakota Turner	...	Young Aretha Franklin Kennedy Chanel	Kennedy Chanel	...	Young Erma Peyton Jackson	Peyton Jackson	...	Young Cecil Franklin Chase Burgess	Chase Burgess	...	Edward Mary J. Blige	Mary J. Blige	...	Dinah Washington Gilbert Glenn Brown	Gilbert Glenn Brown	...	Martin Luther King Jr. Alec Barnes	Alec Barnes	...	Jimmy Johnson Aba Arthur	Aba Arthur	...	Miss Gold Heather Headley	Heather Headley	...	Clara Ward Joshua Mikel	Joshua Mikel	...	Roger Hawkins Henry Riggs	Henry Riggs	...	Tommy Cogbill Leandra Ryan	Leandra Ryan	...	Alice Christen Sharice	Christen Sharice	...	Earline (as Christen Roberts) Zach Strum	Zach Strum	...	David Hood M. Jearl Vinot	M. Jearl Vinot	...	Sydney Pollack Lodric D. Collins	Lodric D. Collins	...	Smokey Robinson Christopher Daniel	Christopher Daniel	...	Edward (7-10) Jerel Xavier Alston	Jerel Xavier Alston	...	Young Clarence
You know the name Aretha Franklin and you might know the story, but if you're like me and didn't know much about her childhood and upbringing, Respect is an eye opening and careful telling of her life.  It goes into her youth and some terrible things that happened to her, her early start in music, and a lot of the personal and professional challenges that she faced along the way.  And that is what I loved about this movie, it's intimate and no holds barred look into Aretha Franklin's life.  It seems like the film touches on the good and the bad, and doesn't put an unnecessary gloss on her life.  It depicts some terrible events, some dark times in her journey, and some joyful, soulful moments as well.  As with every person, there are both good and bad experiences and Respect shows them all.  

But what you'll probably come to for this film is to hear Jennifer Hudson's renditions of Aretha Franklin's music, and wow they are something else.  Although I don't think she quite hits the same highs as Franklin (and frankly, who could), Hudson does a great job emulating her sound and charisma.  I loved seeing her perform and to hear her renditions of Franklin's classic songs.  And the rest of the cast is equally talented, both musically and as actors.  Forest Whitaker is really interesting as Franklin's complicated father; a caring, strict, selfish, and flawed man.  And Marlon Wayans is really something as Ted, Franklin's first manager and husband.  He has such a natural charm that instantly draws you in, but then also has a darker aspect (like many of the characters in the film) that can explode at a moment's notice.  And Franklin's long time manager played by Marc Maron was another fun character who was a perfectly stereotypical music manager.  The rest of the cast help to flesh out Franklin's life and family, giving a good sense of the love and chaos that she lived with.  

And additionally, what I loved about this movie is the almost all black cast and the fact that it doesn't shy away from racism or Franklin's activist life.  Although the movie doesn't devote a lot of time to it (probably because the film is already over two hours long), Respect makes a point of including her support of the civil rights movement and her support of a more active civil rights platform.  These important touches help to flesh out Aretha Franklin the person from Aretha Franklin the performer.  And finally, the film also has an underlying music as a way to unite people message that is sorely needed today.  I really loved the way they showcased this in the film, and it is something that brought a smile to my face the first time the film surprised me with it.  If there are criticisms of this film, it is that there are parts of the movie that feel rushed; it felt like some explanation and aspects of her early and end life were not fully fleshed out or cut too quickly.  I imagine this is because of the runtime, which is already pretty long, so I can't fault the film for this. 

Respect's all star cast and courage to explore the good and the bad of Aretha's journey will give you a new appreciation of the Queen of Soul's life, music, and the challenges that crafted this strong icon.

Watch it.

Joe Knezevich	...	Tom Dowd Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Abri	Abri	...	Ted White's Prostitute Marcia Adams	Marcia Adams	...	New York Fan Chloe Asbell	Chloe Asbell	...	Reporter (as Chl) Demetrius B. Banks	Demetrius B. Banks	...	Church Choir Singer (singing voice) Shawn Ray Cartel	Shawn Ray Cartel	...	Church guest Tony F. Charles	Tony F. Charles	...	Ralph Abernathy Ikennia Cross	Ikennia Cross	...	Choir Director Nichaela 'Noire' Eugene	Nichaela 'Noire' Eugene	...	Choir Singer Linda D Gaines	Linda D Gaines	...	VIP Concert Fan Kelvin Hair	Kelvin Hair	...	Sam Cooke James Hammond	James Hammond	...	Ahmet Ertegun Founder Atlantic Records Austin Scott Hunter	Austin Scott Hunter	...	Audience Member (as Austin Hunter) Charity Jordan	Charity Jordan	...	Party Guest Travis L. King Jr.	Travis L. King Jr.	...	Drummer (Young Aretha scene) Tangela Large	Tangela Large	...	Grieving Mother Beorht Lewinski	Beorht Lewinski	...	Cute Guy (as Bright Ayisi)
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Respect is in theaters on August 13, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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