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Film review: Jennifer Hudson commands 'Respect' as Aretha Franklin

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
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Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin on the original movie poster for "RESPECT"

Originally slated for a December 2020 release, the film "Respect" was rescheduled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Rather than offer it streamed or "on demand" right out of the gate, the producers preferred to wait until they could have bodies in seats in an actual theater – and for good reason.

This is a huge movie that deserves the big screen. And it is well worth the wait.

Full disclosure: I was born in Detroit, grew up with a mostly Motown soundtrack, and spent a good portion of my playtime pretending to be a singing star. Of course, I adored Aretha Franklin and still do.

Knowing that Hollywood treatments of the stories of famous musicians rarely hit the mark, I admit I approached this dramatized version of Aretha's life with some skepticism. As it turns out, the film is long enough and dramatic enough to reflect the the true journey of the Queen of Soul.

Aretha was involved in the early development of the movie, right up until her death on Aug. 16, 2018. She was known to be intensely private, so it had to have been difficult for her to share many of the stories of her life.

She chose actress/singer Jennifer Hudson to portray her. It was the perfect choice. Hudson worked hard to become Aretha on the screen, and she truly succeeds. The supporting cast is excellent.

The focus, aside from the music, is on Aretha's struggles to find her own voice, to have control over her public image and finances, to be loved and to support the civil rights movement.

"Respect" is a loving testament to an extraordinary life.

When you go, be prepared to settle in. The film is over two hours long, and it's moving, emotional and powerful. If you're a weeper, bring plenty of tissues.

"Respect" opens Friday, Aug. 13, at the Grand Cinema in Tacoma and other Seattle-Tacoma area theaters. Many thanks to the staff of the Grand Cinema for arranging the last-minute preview screening that made this review possible.

Robin Lloyd hosts Evening Jazz and Jazz Caliente on 88.5 KNKX and occasionally gets to write book and movie reviews for knkx.org.

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