“R E S P E C T, find out what it means to me,” sang the incomparable Aretha Franklin, the undisputed Queen of Soul, and the world took notice. That fight may still be ongoing, but the late singer-songwriter, civil rights activist and all-round supreme being will forever be regarded as one of the brightest proponents of a better world for all of us.
Hers is one hell of a mantle to take on. But Dreamgirls star Jennifer Hudson (who played a character inspired by the Supremes’ Florence Ballard in that movie) has what it takes to get her propers as the divine Franklin in new film Respect, if the debut trailer is anything to go by.
Emerging like a sparking ember from the backlit glow of a darkened stage in the opening shot, Hudson gives us instant goosebumps. Intoning “What you want,” with the kind of breathy pause in which a true megastar holds her audience rapt, “Baby I got it,” comes a moment later, and with the force of a freight train, we know she’s got this.
When a young Franklin is told that no track from her four albums to date have caught fire because she’s not singing, “the songs that move you,” we know where her story goes. But damn if we can’t get there soon enough. Behold as she cuts down a stroppy music exec who dares call her Aretha, “I’d like you to call me Miss Franklin.”
Directed by Liesl Tommy (Jessica Jones, Queen Sugar) from a screenplay by Tracey Scott Wilson (Fosse/Verdon, The Americans) the creative line-up behind the scenes is way more exciting than some recent biopics that will remain unnamed. The film also packs an incredible ensemble including Mary J Blige, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald and Tituss Burgess.
“You have to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace,” Miss Franklin tells a hall full of folks wanting to make a difference, and never has a film felt like a better fit for our times as the Black Lives Matter movement gathers pace in Australia.