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Jennifer Hudson anchors the Aretha Franklin biopic with poise and passion but she’s let down by a cradle-to-the-grave narrative that’s indistinguishable from any other biopic.

Before her death in 2018 Aretha Franklin personally signed off on Jennifer Hudson as the actress to portray her in the biopic Respect and it's not hard to see why. Her powerful voice effortlessly carries the musical segments of the movie and does total justice to Franklin's lasting legacy.

The same can unfortunately not be said about the picture itself. Like so many biopics Respect mostly offers a highlights reel of the singer's at times troubled life but fails to tells us what made the protagonist tick, while the civil unrest of the era is only ever so fleetingly addressed.

Even more grating though are the many hints at the supposed inner demons troubling Franklin. They have the annoying tendency to only pop up when the narrative calls for it and don't seem to bother the singer at any other time.

Credit is due to the beautifully rendered period costumes and sets, that effortlessly evoke an era, but the mere fact that those are the only things to stick in your mind after watching the film, should tell you enough.

release: 2021

director: Liesl Tommy

starring: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Tituss Burgess


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