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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

Respect

See It Or Skip It: See It


AMAZING GRACE



Glass has been shattered, alcohol has been heavily consumed and words have been said that can never be taken back. Such are the specifics of Respect’s Aretha Franklin hitting rock bottom whose portrayal by Jennifer Hudson will turn your legs to jelly. Hudson just has that special spark that must be protected at all costs. A voice like hers is like the face of someone whose physical attraction defines them in life. Everyone else has to get their hands on it and use it for their own gain.


In the scene I just described, tears are running down her face very fast like small minnows continuously jumping from the ocean’s water. Aretha Franklin’s hands are shaking like someone struggling to fit a key into the lock of a door she thinks will set her free. All is lost. She then sees a vision of her deceased mother (Audra McDonald) sitting next to her younger self at the piano. The warmth of that memory electrifies her like a jet engine and when the sun rises the next morning, Franklin rises up to conquer her “demons” on her terms. Cleaning up the broken glass and wine bottles is literally stripping away all the toxins that have consumed her. They were blazing fires that she put out in triumph. The remaining smoke is nothing more than a series of atrocious memories she's ready to leave behind.


That kind of self-RESPECT is what Areatha Franklin was all about. People said music saved her but the truth is she saved herself. The music she made came from her soul, a soul she knew deeply even when she was seemingly lost. She's been nationally and internationally known and referred to as Queen of Soul. The heart is where the soul lies and the heart is the most important and powerful vessel in the body. Franklin’s heartbeats seemed to pulse with such strength and power. Her soul is carried through her voice with such passion and conviction.


Thankfully, cinema is rising up again and at a perfect time. Respect is definitely a film for the theater-going experience (I'm so grateful to have gotten to see it last weekend at the beautiful Cape Cinema, one of the oldest and most classic cinema houses in existence). Respect will overwhelm you for so many reasons including its ability to wrap itself around you like a beautiful cloak. Sometimes that cloak can be absolutely brutalizing and tighten itself around your neck. All the more reason for Aretha Franklin to be portrayed by someone like Jennifer Hudson because her voice will instantly turn the tight knots of that cloak to shreds and then become beautiful all over again. Jennifer Hudson does sound like Aretha Franklin but if she didn't, no one would ever know because her voice is too gorgeous to possibly focus on anything else. It is clear that she gave her all and wanted to do her best to portray and respect the legendary Queen of Soul.


Another thing I greatly appreciated about Respect is that Franklin’s childhood was not shown in flashbacks. They started from the very beginning so audiences can not only see events unfold from her point of view but so that we as her audience can get to grow up with her. It takes a long while before Jennifer Hudson actually makes it on screen but it was so important to get every little important detail of her early life into the film because even though it didn't define her, it happened and it would be disrespectful not to acknowledge her traumatic childhood and the toll it took on her later in her life.


Forest Whitaker gives his all as Franklin’s pastor father who based on what I saw is absolutely irredeemable. There is no amount of complexity to make sense of the ignorance that resides in his head. He was the first one who really took advantage of her gift. It would make sense that if he was smart enough to see what she had then he was clearly smart enough to nurture it the way her mother did but he didn't. There's stereotypical reconciliation between Franklin and her father in the end. Franklin is too kindhearted to possess the kind of bitterness required to be safe from someone like him.


It's a form of defeat really. I don't mean to imply that kindness is a weakness because of course it's not but sometimes it can blind you to the evil at large. Evil is a strong word but it is accurate here. No acknowledgment of wrongdoing is ever made on his part. It never is in any film that deals with parents like him. He doesn't ask for forgiveness; he is simply too stubborn and self-righteous. He's not intellectually capable of seeing past the ignorance where the truth resides. The truth is rarely attractive so it's easier to lock it away like diamonds in a vault.


Franklin is the true diamond however and nearly everyone tried to lock her in that vault but in the end, they couldn't. Breaking free is the ultimate jewel and when Hudson breaks free with her AMAZING GRACE, I hope you'll be in that theater to watch her do it. She is a gift to us all!








image credit: https://www.goldposter.com/11023394/



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