Director: Liesl Tommy
Story By: Callie Khouri & Tracey Scott Wilson
Cast: Jennifer Hudson, Sky Dakota Turner, Marlon Wayans, Forest Whitaker, & Kimberly Scott
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It took me a while to really process my feelings about this film. I didn’t walk away from the theater satisfied, but I also didn’t walk away feeling disappointed. The first thought I had during the credits was to check out the Hulu version for a comparison. Just to see.
And it wasn’t until I turned on the Hulu version that I not only appreciated the direction and production of the film much better, but I also realized what my struggle was with the film overall…
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Below are my grades for key components in #Respect that I find to be key in any story/film/series—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character Arc/Development.
Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. The scale range consists of: Worth the Watch/$$$, Interesting Enough (if looking for something new to start), Wait for Streaming, Don’t Rush, & Don’t Watch.
I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale.
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Plot & Story: C
Character Arc/Development: D
General Entertainment Factor: Don’t Rush/Don’t Watch
Film Enthusiast Entertainment Factor: Don’t Watch
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1. One major issue with the film for me was the theme. There’s a theme that I think was attempted to get across that focuses on the late Aretha Franklin’s journey with “music through trauma.” However, by the time I reached the end of the film it seemed to me that Aretha was painted as a sinful being who just needed to get back on the path with God… I mean, it sort of bordered on being an agenda… 🥴
2. Hmmm…I am not sure how I am feeling about Marlon Wayans in this role. Don’t get me wrong, I think Marlon has really great range as an actor, but something about this particular role didn’t feel authentic. I felt like I could feel him trying to “perform” Ted White vs “being” Ted White. 🥴
3. Speaking of acting, I think the acting across the board was just “okay.” There wasn’t anyone who wow’d me or showcased true chops. It just felt like a lot of “performing. 🥴
4. Baby… Albert Jones’ body! Yeeeessss, sir! 😩🙌🏾
5. I really wanted more from the plot. Ann Hornaday talks about how the exposition/first few minutes of a film tell us how to watch it, so I knew the film would primarily be music/singing centered; but the overall product seemed to follow a timeline of events and “passed down facts,” vs truly taking time to think about the essence of Aretha Franklin—how could this film have told a story that painted that picture with music as the incentive?🤔
Act One felt extremely long. The child actress was adorable, but I did start to get bored after a while. Act Two was possibly the most engaging of the three acts, and it was just great to finally see Jennifer Hudson hit the screen. Act Three was nice, musically, but was a disappointment in terms of story. Act Two provided the perfect follow up to Aretha’s Act One/childhood trauma, but Act Three didn’t do anything with it…it just continued to move forward with the next “fact/major event” in Aretha’s life. 🤦🏾♂️
Personally, if there wasn’t anything that came about from that trauma, then was this film even worth the story? 🤷🏾♂️
6. Cecil was also bae! Yes Yes Yes! 😍
7. Seeing Titus in this role also felt really weird. I really couldn’t quite connect. 🥴
8. My favorite scenes in this entire film were Aretha in Alabama recording “Never Loved A Man,” and again when she was back doing “Respect.” 👍🏾
9. I mean, there really isn’t much to say about the character arc/development when you have a film that literally just focused more on the creation of the music by the artist vs really focusing on the artist…you can’t have an arc when the character wasn’t really your focus in the first place. And again, as mentioned with my point about the theme, the arc that seemed to come across—with Aretha seemingly “struggling with sin and needing to be saved”—wasn’t really executed well anyway. 🤷🏾♂️🤦🏾♂️
10. Soooo… the paster just doesn’t age at all? Other folks seem to look older, so why not him?👀🤨🤦🏾♂️
11. Pacing was just “okay.” Did I have moments where my eyes were getting heavy? Absolutely. Were there moments where I was drawn to the screen? Yep. But I think I had more moments where my eyes were heavy. Act One was a few minutes too long, and Act Three just felt like a waste after her traumas being showcased in the first two acts. I wanted to see a road to resolution and healing, and I didn’t get that properly. 🤦🏾♂️
12. Chile… Mary J… #Nope. Especially that “lounge scene.” 🤦🏾♂️🤦🏾♂️👎🏾
13. Heather Headley looked so great! 🙌🏾
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Overall, #Respect gives Sparkle-meets Why Do Fools Fall In Love- meets The United States vs Billie Holiday-meets What’s Love Got To Do With It. When I left the theater, I told myself to watch the Hulu version of the Aretha story. I decided to do so (on Aug. 15th, 2021) and couldn’t even get through all of the first episode because what I realized is that I wasn’t really interested.
Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. She is an Icon. She was a brilliant artist—like, I had no idea that Aretha had her hand so much in her music with producing and playing the piano—she was a beast. BUT her life (at least from what was given to us) isn’t really that interesting for cinematic story.
This would’ve been much better had it followed what Kevin Macdonald did with the life and career examination film he did with #Whitney; and knowing who Aretha was in her later interviews, I bet she wouldn’t have been extremely happy about this film.