‘Respect’: Cast, reviews and everything you need to know about the Aretha Franklin biopic

Respect Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson stars as Aretha Franklin in 'Respect' (Image credit: MGM)

Aretha Franklin’s music has been used countless times in movies, but like many great musicians before her, we’re now getting a biopic of the famed musician in the form of Respect.

Know as the Queen of Soul, Franklin was one of the most iconic musicians America has ever known. She sang hits like “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You” and, of course, the film’s namesake, “Respect.” Franklin passed away in 2018 at the age of 76.

Here’s everything that we know about Respect.

What is the plot of ‘Respect?’

Respect will detail the life and career of Aretha Franklin, albeit a slightly fictionalized version. There’s plenty to dig into for sure, from Franklin being recognized as a gifted singer from an early age, to the struggles at the outset of her career before she blasted off into super stardom.

Franklin was the subject of the documentary Amazing Grace a few years ago. That film showed archival footage from a live album recording that she did with the New Bethel Baptist Church. Respect will be the first time that the whole of Franklin’s life will be portrayed on the big screen.

Who is in the ‘Respect’ cast?

Respect has been in the workings for years now, including when Franklin was still alive. This allowed her to hand-pick the actress that she wanted to play her in the movie. Franklin chose Jennifer Hudson. Already an Oscar-winner for Best Supporting Actress in Dreamgirls, Hudson has both the acting chops and voice to portray Franklin.

Even with her resume, Hudson admitted at the film’s premiere to Variety that she never knew exactly why Franklin picked her, saying “I’m so mad at myself for not asking her that question.” She did say that during the making of the film she found her own life experiences helped her channel Franklin throughout the years, which she believes the Queen of Soul was able to recognize somehow.

The rest of the cast of Respect is filled with recognizable faces as well. Forest Whitaker and Audra McDonald are playing Franklin’s parents C.L. and Barbara Franklin, while Marlon Wayans plays her first husband and manager Ted White. Other members of the cast include Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Tate Donovan and Mary J. Blige.

Who is the ‘Respect’ director?

The director of Respect is Liesel Tommy, who is making her feature film directorial debut. Tommy’s career has seen her direct episodes for some big name shows, including Insecure, The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones and Mrs. Fletcher, as well as time on the stage, including being Tony-nominated for the show Eclipse. She is also serving as an executive producer on the film.

Tommy directed from a script by Tracey Scott Wilson, whose previous credits include Fosse/Verdon and The Americans.

When is the ‘Respect’ release date?

Movie goers will be able to head to the theater to see Respect on Aug. 13 (Sept. 10 for U.K. audiences). This comes after the movie was shifted around multiple times because of the pandemic.

Respect was originally scheduled for an August 2020 release date, but was then moved to Jan. 15, 2021, where it still could have competed for 2020/2021 film awards. Then in October 2020, it was pushed back again to its current Aug. 13 date.

Respect will play exclusively in theaters upon its release. No plans for streaming have been announced at this time.

Is there a ‘Respect’ trailer

Yes. We got our first look at Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in the Respect trailer released back in May. Give it a watch for yourself below.

Are there ‘Respect’ reviews?

Reviews have started to come in for Respect, with critics appearing lukewarm to the film overall. Most critics seem to find the film stuck in the music bio cliches, but make a note to praise Hudson’s performance, which the USA Today’s Brian Truitt called stunning.

As of Aug. 10, Respect has scored a 68% on Rotten Tomatoes, while netting a 58 on Metacritic.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.