Features and Columns · Movies · News

What to Expect from the Aretha Franklin Biopic ‘Respect’

Who doesn’t love the Queen of Soul?
Aretha Franklin Respect Biopic Jennifer Hudson
By  · Published on July 25th, 2021

Welcome to Great Expectations, a recurring series in which we break down the most essential information about an upcoming movie or show. In this edition, we look at what you can expect from — and where you can watch — the 2021 Aretha Franklin movie biopic Respect.

A good biopic of a musician can be a beautiful thing. Take Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan portrait, I’m Not There, for example, or James Mangold’s Johnny Cash and June Carter movie, Walk the Line. And who can forget the cinematic adaptation of Mozart’s life, Amadeus?

Now it’s Aretha Franklin‘s turn. The Queen of Soul was just recenty portrayed by Cynthia Erivo in the series Genius, but the singer’s estate disapproved of the result. They’re more involved with a feature film biopic arriving from writer Tracey Scott Wilson (Fosse/Verdon) and director Liesl Tommy (Queen Sugar) with actress and singer Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) in the lead.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Aretha Franklin movie biopic Respect:

Respect Release Date (and Where to Watch)

Like many of this year’s releases, the movie Respect saw significant delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the biopic now has a release date locked in. It will be dazzling audiences on August 13, 2021, in the US.

You can see it before that, however. Fandango and United Artists are hosting a one-night-only sneak preview screening in select theaters on August 8th. An exclusive Rotten Tomatoes pre-show program called Becoming: Aretha will accompany the feature, too. So be sure to keep an eye out for those tickets.

The Cast

Respect stars Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin. She was hand-picked for the role by the Queen of Soul herself in 2019, before the singer’s death. The cast also includes Forest Whitaker (Bird), Marlon Wayans (Requiem for a Dream), Audra McDonald (Private Practice), Marc Maron (Joker), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Saycon Sengbloh (The Wonder Years), Tate Donovan (Rocketman), and Mary J. Blige (Mudbound).

The Plot of Respect

If you’re wondering what aspects of Aretha Franklin’s life are covered in the biopic, the answer is, well, all of them. Respect is a deep dive into Franklin’s personal and professional life. It will follow her astounding rise to stardom, her involvement as an activist in the civil rights movement, and everything in between.

The biopic includes her marriage to her manager, songwriter Ted White (Wayans), as well as her subsequent marriage to C.L. Franklin (Whitaker), a civil rights activist and minister. The movie also depicts her upbringing and how she first discovered her passion for music in the choir of her father’s church as a little girl.

Of course, Respect also looks at Franklin’s extremely successful musical career. Given her talent as well as Jennifer Hudson’s, we can also expect a handful of incredible musical numbers in the film.


Watch the Respect Trailer

Young Aretha Franklin with a spark in her eyes. Dramatic fights in adulthood between Franklin and one of her husbands. Live performances that Hudson is going to absolutely nail. This movie looks great. And that’s just the trailer for Respect we’re talking about. Check it out here:

How Jennifer Hudson Feels About Portraying a Legend

It’s stressful enough to portray a real person in a movie. But portraying someone who has achieved the status of a legend? We honestly can’t imagine anything more anxiety-inducing. Fortunately, in Hudson, Respect found the perfect person for the job. The actress has earned an Academy Award, and, not one, but two Grammy Awards.

Talking with ET on the red carpet at the 2021 BET Awards, Hudson admitted that playing Aretha Franklin was a pretty stressful gig, despite her impressive talents and accolades. “That’s a lot, a lot, a lot of pressure!”

She added that she hopes to showcase the star power that Franklin had to offer. “You should feel the church in it, the spirit, the soul,” she explained. “I wanted to make sure that was the base and the premise of everything because Aretha was my gospel… I’m so happy to hear that [it sounds like Aretha] because that was my sentiments exactly.”

And judging from the trailer, if anyone should be playing Franklin, it’s Hudson.

Related Topics: , ,

Aurora Amidon spends her days running the Great Expectations column and trying to convince people that Hostel II is one of the best movies of all time. Read her mostly embarrassing tweets here: @aurora_amidon.