The Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” has been moved to Christmas day from its previous August opening date.
This is partially because of the virus situation, but also because Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar buzz for Best Actress is strong. Liesl Tommy directed the movie, and Callie Khouri wrote the original script. But then Tracey Scott Wilson took over. The two have had a long creative relationship in theater. Khouri was somehow convinced to drop out and not get a credit. The cast includes Forest Whitaker as C.L. Franklin, Marlon Wayans as Ted White, Mary J. Blige as Dinah Washington and Titus Burgess as Rev. Dr. James Cleveland.
Aretha approved Jennifer, which is no small thing. And from what we’ve seen and heard so far, JHud has probably done Aretha a great job. She can certainly sing those songs. I’ll bet that her version of “Ain’t No Way” is the scene stealer, if not “Natural Woman.”
Will the screenplay satisfy any of Aretha’s friends or family? Probably not, but I’m crossing my fingers. I see that late director Sydney Pollack is a character, which means that Tommy may have re-staged Aretha’s gospel doc filmed in 1972 and released last year as “Amazing Grace.” If JHud got sing that material, that may cement her Oscar win. She could just “kill” in that situation.
Meanwhile, we will first see Cynthia Erivo as Aretha in the Ron Howard-produced “Genius” mini-series on the Discovery channel this spring.