Respect Parent Guide
This movie doesn't depart from the biopic formula but it handles difficult topics with sensitivity and delivers a tribute to resilience, family, and faith.
Parent Movie Review
To some extent, all musical biopics are retellings of the same story. A young person has exceptional musical talent. They struggle to reach the big time. When they succeed professionally, their relationships collapse as they lose their battles with their inner demons and surrender to alcohol or drugs. Finally, they either die or rehabilitate themselves and resume their careers, but with greater wisdom and maturity. Respect fits neatly into that familiar framework.
The movie opens in Detroit in 1952 where ten year old Aretha Franklin (Skye Dakota Turner) lives with her pastor father (Forest Whitaker), grandmother (Kimberly Scott), and sisters (Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, and Brenda Nicole Moorer). The child is a gifted vocalist and her father often gets her out of bed to sing at his parties. She’s joyful and effervescent until two terrible experiences dim her light and set off a lifelong struggle with self-loathing and despair.
Despite her personal struggles, Aretha’s (Jennifer Hudson) talent continues to blossom. Her father becomes her manager, taking her on church tours where she sings gospel classics and bolsters the civil rights movement. He eventually lands a record contract for her, but Aretha chafes at his control and finally declares her independence. After years of rising album sales, Aretha achieves stardom with “Respect”, released in 1967.
True to form, Aretha’s success in the music biz is balanced out by personal challenges – an abusive husband, trouble with record labels, and alcoholism. But throughout her struggles, she is sustained by her family and her profound love for the gospel music that nurtured her talent and eventually saves it.
Aretha Franklin’s life is a matter of public record and the biopic formula is well known, so you might wonder if there’s any reason to watch this film. The answer is, yes, there is. This isn’t just a film about a famous woman’s career. It’s a film about surviving and growing in the face of adversity. It’s a tribute to resilience and the power of faith and family.
The impact of Aretha’s story is intensified by the two talented actresses who portray her on screen. Skye Dakota Turner plays the youthful Aretha with impressive authenticity for so young an actress. Her ability to go from cheerful to numb is devastating. Jennifer Hudson also delivers an emphatic performance – showing Aretha’s focus, her challenges in asserting herself, her faith in her talent, and her strength in overcoming her demons. Most importantly, Ms. Hudson has the pipes to successfully belt out the Queen of Soul’s signature tunes so convincingly that audiences will forget they’re not watching Aretha herself.
There are many challenging topics in the film, including sexual abuse, alcoholism, and domestic violence, but director Liesl Tommy exercises great sensitivity in bringing the script to life. There is no graphic content; just enough to let the audience know what the characters are dealing with before the movie focuses on the consequences of these issues. The production still contains some negative content and potentially disturbing images, but the PG-13 rating is appropriate. Whether or not parents are comfortable watching with their teens is a matter for personal judgment but it’s difficult to ignore the message of Aretha’s greatest hit: “All I’m asking for is a little respect.”Directed by Liesl Tommy. Starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Audra McDonald, Skye Dakota Turner, Marlon Wayans, Marc Maron. Running time: 145 minutes. Theatrical release August 13, 2021. Updated March 23, 2022
Watch the trailer for Respect
Rating & Content Info
Why is Respect rated PG-13? Respect is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for mature thematic content, strong language including racial epithets, violence, suggestive material, and smoking
Violence: There are mentions of domestic violence. A death takes place off-screen. A woman shouts and knocks over a table in a club. A man slaps a woman’s face. A man waves a gun at another man and threatens to shoot him. A man slams his wife against a wall and grabs her by the throat. An abusive man shouts at his wife. There’s mention of a political assassination. A woman hits a man in the face.
Sexual Content: There are several scenes of passionate kissing. There are a couple of scenes where an unmarried man and woman wake up in bed together: prior sex is implied but not seen. The sexual abuse of a child is implied but is not shown on screen. There is a brief image of a pregnant child. Two men are briefly seen embracing. A man promises sex without commitment. A clothed man and woman stroke each other’s backsides. A crude slang expression for sexual desire is used.
Profanity: There are just over 40 profanities in the film, including 11 scatological curses, 13 minor curse words, six terms of deity and six anatomical terms. There are also five racial slurs aimed at African-Americans and two crude terms for women.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There are frequent scenes of people drinking at parties. People often drink to cope with strong emotions. A main character is an alcoholic and is seen over-imbibing, being hungover, and collapsing. Adults are seen smoking on several occasions.
Page last updated March 23, 2022
Respect Parents' Guide
For more information about Aretha Franklin, check out these links:
Wikipedia: Aretha Franklin
Smooth Radio: Aretha Franklin facts
Do you have a favorite song by Aretha Franklin? What do you like about it?
You can listen to her greatest hits here:
YouTube: Aretha Franklin Greatest Hits
Aretha’s 1972 concert at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church resulted in a documentary (which can be rented online) and an album. It can be heard here.
Related home video titles:
The documentary Amazing Grace was filmed at one of Aretha Franklin’s most famous concerts, this one held in Los Angeles in 1972.
Anther woman who struggled to make it in the music business is Australian singer, Helen Reddy. Her tale is told in I Am Woman.
Singer and actress Judy Garland faced challenges from the men who profited from her career and from her own internal battles. Judy depicts a London engagement she took in the hopes of earning enough money to regain custody of her children.
Jennifer Hudson stars in Dreamgirls, a fictional look at the challenges of stardom in the music business. In Wild Rose, Jessie Buckley stars as a Scottish country and western singer who wants to make it in Nashville but who has responsibilities to her children.