Arguably just about the most important word in the English language is “Respect”, the title of the new biopic about Aretha Franklin, starring Jennifer Hudson. Respect is what we all want, what we all work for and just because a person deserves respect, because they have earned it from years of hard work – does not guarantee that we will ever receive it.
This new biography about the life of Aretha shows how difficult getting respect or even a hit record in the music business is. Aretha Franklin put out 9 albums and did not have one hit within any of them. Her career proved once again that to be talented is only small part of the battle. You have to be able to perform in front of thousands of people, handle the pressure and exhaustion of touring around the world, with financial worries and the highs and lows of the fickle opinions of both fans and random critics along the way. You also need the skin of rhinoceros to handle all the bad people that are out to knock you down. The late Whitney Houston showed better than anyone how not to be extremely talented and world famous.
Amazingly, Aretha gave birth to two sons when she was only 13 and 14 years old with two different men. Unfortunately this movie did a very poor job including these two children in this story; only showing them in one scene when she visited them when they were living with her stepmother. There was no mention that she was 14 years old and already had two children.
Towards the end of this movie, we see that Aretha had her share of problems at the top of her career. She was an alcoholic during a time where she lost her ability to handle so much pressure and stress after so many years. There was a small scene early in the movie where she might have been molested by a family member. It also seemed that Aretha did not have much to do with raising her sons, when she was very busy with her music career. Aretha was married twice. Her first husband, played by Marlon Wayons, physically abused her during the time he tried to manage her career. Her second husband was her road manager and they had one child, and her fourth son was with another man. She had numerous problems with her father, played by Forest Whitaker during the time he tried to manager the start of her career. The most important part of this story, was about Aretha learning to take charge of her own career, rather than relying on the opinions of others about what she should sing.
Some of the problems with this movie are that it was way too long at 2 hours and 25 minutes. The movie was slow and weak in too many areas. There were not enough singing scenes, showing the talent of Jennifer Hudson. There seemed to be way too many unnecessary additions to the story that slowed it down even more. Unfortunately, due to these weaknesses it is unlikely that Jennifer Hudson will receive another Oscar nomination because the film on the whole, is not strong enough.
I mostly agree with the Rotten Tomatoes critics and their relatively low 63% ratings. I give this movie a recommendation only for Aretha Franklin fans, for the rest this one is a toss up.