Battle of Arethas

The biopic about Aretha Franklin, Respect, was just released – four months after Genius: Aretha with Cynthia Erivo (which was also four times longer).  What this film has going for it is Jennifer Hudson, who is a remarkable singer – a skill which is on display with full-length performances of most of Franklin’s hits.  Those numbers are impeccably staged and performed.  Alas, all of those songs leave little room for much of a script.  I don’t know if it’s the writing, directing, or acting, but whenever there isn’t singing, the film is lacking.  That said, it doesn’t shy away from some of the more controversial aspects of Aretha’s life – which makes me wonder if this “authorized biopic” would have pleased The Queen (by the way, the Dinah Washington incident happened to Etta James, not Aretha).  The narrative ends in 1972 with the recording of Amazing Grace.  Perhaps in a decade or two, Hudson will revisit the role in a sequel – kinda like Funny Lady picking up where Funny Girl left off.  While Respect is the Cliffs Notes version of Aretha’s life, I enjoyed it as a companion to the more thorough NatGeo effort.

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