D Kevin McNeirEntertainment

Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Hudson Burn Up the Screen in Aretha Franklin Biopic

'Respect' Features Stellar Cast and the Unforgettable Music of 'The Queen of Soul'

After several revised release dates because of the pandemic, the wait for the highly-anticipated biopic on the life of the Queen of Soul has finally come to an end.

The movie, “Respect,” directed by Liesl Tommy and featuring Jennifer Hudson in the lead role as Aretha Franklin, premieres in theaters across the U.S. on Aug. 13.

MGM has already released several exciting trailers of the film, further heightening expectations among fans of the Queen. But after recently attending a private screening at the Regal Gallery & 4DX movie theater in Northwest, this writer found himself temporarily speechless.

Yes, it’s that good.

Hudson remains a formidable actress and holds her own in her portrayal of the talented diva – a child prodigy whose life included many examples of both tremendous triumphs and heart-breaking tragedies.

Jennifer Hudson (left) portrays Aretha Franklin (right) in "Respect," a new biopic about the legendary singer. (Courtesy photos)
Jennifer Hudson (left) portrays Aretha Franklin (right) in “Respect,” a new biopic about the legendary singer. (Courtesy photos)

Far from attempting to mimic Franklin’s God-given voice, Hudson employs her own style while beautifully rendering the songs which Franklin immortalized within the American songbook including: “Think;” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman;” and “Respect,” Franklin’s breakthrough song on which she and her sisters collaborated bringing a unique sound to the Otis Redding classic.

Among the cast, Skye Dakota Turner portrays the young Aretha with Forest Whitaker capturing the essence of Aretha’s father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin.

But for this writer’s money, the real surprise came with the brilliant portrayal by Marlon Wayans of Aretha’s often volatile but smooth as silk, former husband and manager, Ted White.

Marc Maron also does a credible job as Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler.

The film counts as the second, high-profile project about Aretha Franklin this year, coming on the heels of the National Geographic television series “Genius: Aretha,” released in March. British actress Cynthia Erivo, who starred as Aretha in “Genius,” recently learned that her performance has garnered her a nomination for an Emmy for best actress in a limited or anthology series or movie.

Many believe that Hudson will score an Oscar nomination for her work in “Respect.”

“Respect” focuses on Franklin’s early years, including her childhood, her formative years in the church and her breakthrough to fame in 1967 with the story continuing through the early 1970s.

Tommy said she sought to capture the defining experiences in the young singer’s journey while removing the curtain on her private persona.

“When I dove into the things we don’t know about her, what came to me is this should be the story of a young woman with the greatest voice in the world fighting to find her own voice,” Tommy shared with reporters several weeks ago.

The film runs several hours but you probably won’t notice. But rest assured. Before it’s over, you’ll find yourself snapping your fingers, singing along and perhaps even dancing in the aisles while trying to remember where you were when you first heard the golden voice of the Queen of Soul.

Unfortunately, the Queen’s life ended Aug. 16, 2018 after she lost a valiant fight against pancreatic cancer. But what an amazing gift Aretha Franklin left for us and for future generations to enjoy – her music.

For those who want to know more about the early years of Aretha’s life and her rise to stardom, you may want to read “Aretha, From These Roots,” written by Franklin with David Ritz, published in 1999.

In the final pages of her autobiography, Franklin shares the following thoughts:

“I’ve been called a diva, queen diva, diva supreme and I love it,” she writes. “However, that’s really for others to decide, not me . . . God has been so good to me; my life has been and is rewarding, exciting and creative. And surely the best is yet to come.”

“There are many songs that I want to sing. And sing . . . And sing . . . And sing . . .”

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents, the native Detroiter engineered a transformation of The Miami Times resulting in its being named the NNPA’s “Publication of the Year” in 2011 – just one of several dozen industry-related awards he’s earned in his career. He currently serves as senior editor for The Washington Informer. There, in the heart of the U.S. Capitol, he displays a keen insight for developing front-page news as it unfolds within the greater Washington area, capturing the crucial facts and facets of today’s intriguing, political arena. He has degrees from The University of Michigan, Emory University and Princeton Theological Seminary. In 2020, he received First Place for Weekly Newspaper, Commentary & Criticism, Society of Professional Journalists, Washington, D.C. Pro Chapter. Learn more about him at www.dkevinmcneir.com, Facebook – Kevin McNeir, Twitter - @mcneirdk, Linkedin – D. Kevin McNeir or email: mcneirdk@washingtoninformer.com.

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