Stylish Films: Respect

The moment I wake up, before I put on my make up, I say a little prayer for you…

It’s absolutely one of the most beautiful songs of all time, and one which truly introduced me to the beauty of Aretha Franklin’s voice. Now, in a stylish biopic, the story of Aretha’s early life and rise to fame is shown in all its horror and glory. The fame, the Grammys, the husbands, the abuse, the alcohol struggles and the music, oh the music, it’s all there in Respect, with the astounding Jennifer Hudson bringing a joy and pathos to the complicated lady behind the music.

Respect is a movie that shows why you shouldn’t always believe the critics, who have not been that kind in their reviews. For me, a film should inspire, entertain and enthrall whilst telling a story worth telling, and Respect does precisely that, with brilliant performances from the aforementioned Hudson, but also Forest Whittaker as her preacher father C L Franklin, and Marlon Wayans as her first husband Ted.

The abuse Aretha experienced, both as a child, and during her marriage to Ted, is often alluded to at a distance of time, rather than showed, and this makes it even more powerful when Aretha is forced to face her demons. Her children (the first two born before the singer was 15, the film suggests as a result of the abuse she experienced) are often brushed to the side in the story, left behind at her childhood home in Detroit, and her relationships with her sisters and her controlling father are shown to be stormy. But the film is not bleak throughout, her delivery of ‘Think’ as a clarion call out to women everywhere, and an ecstatic version of the legendary ‘Respect’ are pure moments of joy, only enhanced by Hudson’s brilliant performance of both. Her rendition of Amazing Grace brought me to tears.

The music soars in this film, but the costumes are also a joy to those who love fashion. The early 1960s period is often forgotten, shoe horned in between the new look of the 1950’s, and the swinging sixties looks, but it was a glamorous and elegant time which is beautifully portrayed in Respect. Aretha’s stunning spangled dresses and stage costumes are also lovingly recreated, and also her style as we move towards the 70’s when Aretha embraced her natural hair, animal print kaftans and more casual styles.

Respect is a stunning movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen to really enjoy it, if you love Aretha, or are just a fan of entertaining biopics, you will truly love this.

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