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Friday Film Review--"RESPECT"

  CREDIT KPCW

RESPECT is a biopick about larger-than-life icon, Aretha Frankin that deserves to be seen a the big screen with the speakers cranked. Here’s Barb Bretz with your Friday Film Review.

Aretha Franklin's 1999 autobiography From These Roots, drew criticism from reviewers who felt the traumatic experiences, especially of her early childhood were glossed over. This biopic may be a target for the same reason. It might please audiences to a higher degree than it will the critics. It’s a worthy tribute and takes a deeper look into experiences that shaped Franklin, yet mysteries do remain.

It makes me feel old to consider a film set in the 50s and 60s a “period piece” but it is and they do a great job recreating the era. The soundtrack, fashions and historic events of the day make for a colorful and consequential timeline.

Before her death, Franklin hand-picked Jennifer Hudson for the lead role. Hudson’s performance is phenomenal. She belts out the iconic songs masterfully. At age 39, Hudson believably portrays a naive, subservient teenager transforming to a 30-year-old diva taking charge of her life for the first time.

The film makes a leap from 1952 and 10-year-old Aretha in bed with her dolly to 1959 and 17- year-old Aretha arriving home to the hugs of her two little boys, which is jolting. Later, in backstory the situation is alluded to, but not fully explained. It sure left me with a few questions I’d like to ask her father.

Casting is excellent even with the secondary characters like Rick Hall and the Swampers from Muscle Shoals recording studio. The physical resemblance to the real people in her circle is spot on.

What I learned about Aretha Franklin is she was raised to be a proper and fashionable young lady by a very famous and connected father and was surrounded by interesting and accomplished individuals her whole life. She also was a powerful voice, albeit a singing one, in the Civil Rights movement and often accompanied her father and Martin Luther King, Junior on the road. She was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In researching for this review, I also learned she had a clause written into her early contracts that she would not perform for segregated audiences.

I’m glad the film closes with actual footage of the Queen of Soul, in all her mink-covered glory singing “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.”

Two additional documentaries that compliment this story are Muscle Shoals, which premiered at Sundance 2013 and Amazing Grace, which used footage of Franklin’s 2-day recording session of her gospel record of the same name. Shot by a young Sydney Pollack in 1972, Franklin sued several times to prevent it’s release and it wasn’t until after her death, the family made it available.

RESPECT runs 2 hours and 25 musical minutes and is rated PG-13. This is Barb Bretz with your Friday Film Review. See you at the movies!

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