If you’re wondering if the music will be good in the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul, you better think — how could it not be good?
The film takes us through Franklin’s complicated childhood and details her surprisingly long struggle for success. If you assumed doors opened for Franklin as soon as people heard her captivating voice, well, no.
Hudson captures Franklin with vivid, sometimes heartbreaking nuance, never more so than when she sings her best-known hits. Respect just released one clip, of Hudson performing the hit “Think,” a few days ahead of the film’s release, and you can watch and listen above.
One of the most impressive parts of it is that way that Hudson acts while singing. She doesn’t sound like Jennifer Hudson doing “Think” — she sounds like a young Aretha Franklin doing “Think.” You get the sense that Hudson might have an altogether different take on the song, yet she plays it as Franklin would, bringing the 1960s to cinematic life rather than offering an overproduced 2021 take. You can feel the hot lights, and imagine the scratchy showbiz fabric of Franklin and her backup singer’s outfits.
Before her death in 2018 at the age of 76, Franklin herself chose Hudson to play her on film. At the Respect premiere, Hudson told Variety she regrets that she never asked Franklin why — but has a guess.
“I think it goes beyond the singing and how Jennifer sings and acts,” Hudson said. “It’s within the scene when Aretha’s mother comes to her; it felt so true to my own life. And in the moment I was like, ‘I don’t think I would’ve been able to tell the story without my own life experience and triumphs,’ and I feel like she saw far more than what I saw. In that moment, I said, ‘This is what it was – this is why.’ It was things that I discovered throughout the film that at least I told myself, ‘This must be the reason.’”
The film, directed by Liesl Tommy and written by Tracey Scott Wilson, is in theaters Friday. Executive produced by Jennifer Hudson and Tommy, among others, it also stars Forest Whitaker as Franklin’s preacher father and Marlon Wayans as her husband, Ted White. Rounding out the cast are Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Kimberly Scott, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Heather Headley, Skye Dakota Turner, Tate Donovan and Mary J. Blige.
And yes, Jennifer Hudson performs a Jennifer Hudson song, too.
Respect is in theaters Friday.
Main image: Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in Respect.