Here’s your movie review of the new Aretha Franklin biopic: Respect.
I’m not a music buff. I like listening to music as much as the next guy but most of it sounds the same to me and like many of you, music was at its best when you’re were in high school and it’s been on a downhill slide ever since. It doesn’t matter when you went to high school, the axiom holds true.
To be fair, I do like stuff from the 60s and 70s as well as a lot of classical. Of course, movie scores are at the top of my list. Yeah. I’m THAT guy.
As far as most modern music, I can take it or leave it. And I cannot stand concerts. They are needles in my ears and a waste of time. Why in the name of Satan’s domain would I pay a few hundred bucks to watch a group play the same songs I’m intimately familiar with but overamped and distorted while buried in a sweaty crowd of (mostly high) yahoos?
No thank you. They made studio-produced music that I can listen to while doing other things for a reason. Needless to say, this type of film isn’t for me. I could really give two shits about crooners who do too many chemicals.
That being said, Aretha Franklin is a bit of a national treasure, no doubt about it. My biggest connections to her though are, you guessed it, through movies. The Blues Brothers, The Big Chill, Forrest Gump. Other than that, I really knew nothing about her.
Respect aims to remedy that. One thing that the movie really surprised me with was her band was a bunch of white rednecks. Good people and great musicians. She was pretty loyal to them and didn’t let race color her preconceptions if, and I quote:
“…those boys got soul.”
Seems like they had more sense back then sometimes than we do now.
Jennifer Hudson does a good job but since I don’t have a lot of familiarity with how Aretha acted in her day-to-day life, I’ll have to take someone’s word for it that she did a good job. On the singing parts, however, she did great.
The story is a bit bog standard but serviceable enough. She made bad decisions with men, was abused as a child, had some estrangement with her father, and was an alcoholic. None of it is anything you wouldn’t have seen in most other biopics. I have no reason to assume most of it isn’t true, I just find it odd how most musicians seem to follow the same trajectory.
I will say at least her story didn’t end tragically. She cleaned herself up, reconciled with her father, and found the right guy. Of course, there are some race relations issues but it’s really not focused on very much by the movie. In fact so much is just touched on, nothing is really given enough focus except her relationship with Tim White, played competently by Marlon Wayans.
Mark Maron and Forest Whitaker round out the supporting cast.
Is it a bad movie? Not at all, it’s just not for me. I saw it like I see one of the Disney documentary films you watch in a theme park. Interesting, found out some new information I wasn’t aware of and forgot about immediately hitting the parking lot.
Your mileage may vary. This is the kind of film that hardcore Aretha and music fans will probably get a lot more out of than I did. But it’s also competently made, well-acted, and a solid, if unremarkable film.