First Trailer: Jennifer Hudson Radiates in Upcoming Aretha Franklin Biopic ‘Respect’

The first full trailer for the anxiously awaited Aretha Franklin biopic Respect (due in theaters August 13 via MGM) opens with the singer as a young girl, sitting at the piano with her mom. The latter sings, “How is Aretha?,” and the little one responds with a smile, “Aretha’ doing alriiiiiiight.” It’s a simple, sweet little moment, and a rare opportunity to imagine one of the few greatest singers of her generation as a child, long before her rise to enormous fame.

But her mother then follows with a warning, “Singing is sacred. And you shouldn’t do it just because somebody wants you to. What’s most important is that you are treated with dignity and respect.”

Indeed that was what was important. And that very word – “respect” – would go on to forever define her truly spectacular career. The song of the same would become an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, a feminist rallying cry, and was even even later adopted by the gay community as a kind of demand to be treated with dignity. Of course, none of that would have been possible without that voice…and the unstoppable passion behind it.

The trailer moves on to a pivotal moment, with her mom (played with a singular intensity by Audra McDonald) telling a grown up Aretha backstage, “Find the songs that move you. Until you do that, you ain’t going nowhere.” Naturally, it then cuts to her at a piano, tapping out the first notes and singing the unfinished lyrics to ‘Respect.’ And Jennifer Hudson genuinely does capture the anxious urgency of a young woman coming into her own, and ready to become the star that she was destined to be.

We then see a moodily lit Aretha on stage, fervently intoning the opening line – “Looking out on the morning rain” – of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” while we also hear her voicing over: “This song goes out to anyone who’s ever felt mistreated.” The trailer closes with an unidentified voice enthusing, “She’s a miracle.” And that’s precisely what you need to know about Aretha: she was an unstoppable force of nature, one whose songs lifted up the oppressed at a time when they needed it the most. Both she and her music were nothing less than a saving grace.

And wouldn’t you know, as Respect nears its release date, the timing could not be more exigent once again – as young women, and especially young women of color, need all the heroes they can get right now. Indeed, as we struggle once again for equality and justice, Aretha, even in her absence (she passed away in August of 2018), reminds us of the importance of demanding R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

“All I’m askin’…”

Photos by: Quantrell D. Colbert

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