One of my favorite movie genres is the true story/biopic. There is something about a good true life story that I find fascinating. A good fiction story is entertaining, but there is something about knowing that the story actually happened to someone that makes it more interesting. Today I am looking at the movie Respect which is the biopic of Aretha Franklin’s life and career. I will admit that I am not a huge fan of Aretha Franklin as while I enjoy some of her most famous songs, I knew very little about her life or career. For this reason I was intrigued by the film to learn more about her life interspersed with renditions of some of her most famous songs. Respect is an enjoyable and interesting look into the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin’s life even if it can be a little long at times.
Respect is the biographical story of the life of the soul singer Aretha Franklin. The story follows her life from childhood to her rise to stardom as one of the most popular singers of her era. Outside of her music career, the movie also follows the various struggles that Aretha Franklin had to overcome along the way.
In recent years there have been quite a few biopics made of famous singers who revolutionized the industry. When these type of movies are made, one of the top things that need to be considered is whether the movie is mostly going to focus on the music side of the artist’s career or if a greater emphasis would be placed on their life outside of music. Most of these movies tend to focus on the later. In a lot of ways Respect follows a similar path. The movie does spend a decent amount of time on Aretha Franklin’s music career and the creation of some of her most popular songs, but I would say that a larger portion of the movie is based around some of her personal struggles and her ability to overcome them.
I personally would have preferred a little more emphasis on the music side as I thought these were the best parts of the movie. I don’t know enough about her career to know how accurate these sections of the movie are, but the movie focuses on the process of how a number of her most famous songs came to be. I think these were some of the best parts of the movie because the musical portions of the movie are well done.
While I preferred the music portions, I can see why the movie decided to put more emphasis on other parts of her life. In many ways the movie is focused on the various struggles that she had to deal with in life and how she overcame them. Some biopics tend to paint over a celebrities flaws and troubles in order to sugarcoat their lives. Respect doesn’t really do this as it focuses on some of the darkest moments of her life including things such as domestic violence and her issues with alcohol.
With all biopics I like to do a little additional research after watching to see if the movie is telling an accurate story of what actually happened. I am far from an expert on Aretha Franklin’s life so outside of the brief research I did I don’t have much else to go on. For the most part I would say that the movie is pretty faithful to her life. Based on my research I didn’t really notice any blatantly wrong or misleading information. Some fans may not agree with what parts of her life were emphasized and may think some elements are overplayed or downplayed. Generally I would say that it does a better job telling an accurate tale than a lot of biopic movies.
As for the acting I thought Respect did a pretty good job. I thought Jennifer Hudson did a good job in the main role of Aretha Franklin. The singing portions are where she stands out the most, but she does a good job in the more dramatic parts of the role as well. Aretha Franklin actually specifically requested that Jennifer Hudson play her if any biopic were made. The rest of the cast is pretty good as well. I will admit that I don’t know enough personally about most of the characters in the story to determine how accurate the representations are, but I think the supporting cast generally does a good job.
For the most part I thought the movie was pretty good. I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of Aretha Franklin as I honestly didn’t now much about her outside of some of her most famous songs. Therefore my opinion of the movie is coming from someone that is more of a casual fan that enjoys some of her songs rather than a super fan. The movie tells an interesting story about overcoming adversity mixed with some good music sections. While some fans might disagree with what the movie emphasizes, I think most fans should really enjoy the film.
Probably the biggest issue that I had with Respect is that it feels too long. The movie’s runtime is two hours and 25 minutes. This was too long in my opinion. The long runtime leads to the movie having a number of slow moments. In a way it feels like the movie tried to cover too much of her life where a more focused story would have been better. The movie has some slow moments which should have either been shortened or cut entirely. I think the movie would have been better if it was closer to two hours. As is the movie has a few moments that are kind of boring.
With this being a review of the Blu-ray release of the film, at this time I want to quickly take a look at the movie’s special features.
- The Making of Respect (7:20) – A look behind the process of creating a film around Aretha Franklin’s life.
- Becoming Aretha (4:42) – The process of how Jennifer Hudson prepared for the role of Aretha from voice and movement coaching to learning how to play the piano.
- Capturing a Legacy (3:49) – A feature about the director’s vision for the film.
- From Muscle Shoals (2:57) – Focuses on Aretha Franklin’s shift to the Muscle Shoals recording studio and how they recreated the studio for the film.
- Exploring the Design of Respect (3:37) – A look at the costume and set design of the film and how they tried to be as authentic to the time period as possible.
For the most part the special features are what you would expect from this type of movie. They are basically various behind the scenes looks at different elements of the film. Most are pretty short and to the point. Those who generally like special features and liked the movie will probably find them worth watching. I learned some things from the features, but I personally didn’t really learn anything that made me appreciate the film more. If you generally don’t watch special features I don’t really see anything in them where you must watch them.
Ultimately I would consider Respect to be a good biopic about Aretha Franklin’s life and music career. The film focuses on both her singing career but also the various struggles that she had to overcome throughout her life. Of the two I found the music sections of the movie more interesting. The movie probably has a greater emphasis on parts of her life outside of her music though as the overarching story is about overcoming life’s struggles. I generally thought the acting was quite good with Jennifer Hudson doing a really good job as Aretha Franklin. Probably the biggest problem with the film is just that it is a little too long where it begins to drag a little. I think the movie would have benefited from some parts of the story being shortened or cut out entirely.
If you aren’t really interested in Aretha Franklin’s life or don’t generally care for music biopics, I don’t know if Respect will be for you. If you are a fan of Aretha Franklin or generally like this movie genre though, I think you will enjoy Respect and should consider checking it out.
Buy Respect online: Blu-ray, DVD
We would like to thank Universal Pictures for the review copy of Respect used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.