Monday, May 27, 2024

Oscars: There’s a Gathering Storm for Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in “Respect” as Voters Catch Up


For months now we’ve been told told told by Oscar prognosticators that Kristin Stewart was in the lead for “Spencer.” It’s been hammered home over and over. I have no problem with Stewart getting a nomination but there are other movies and performances.

Right now the Best Actress race is very white. In addition to Stewart, there’s Lady Gaga for “House of Gucci,” Nicole Kidman for “Being the Ricardos,” Olivia Colman for “The Lost Daughter,” and Penelope Cruz for “Parallel Mothers.”

But no Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in “Respect.” So far, there’s been little excitement in the Gold Derby world. But I’m starting to see it among Oscar voters and those who are catching up with “Respect” on VOD, etc.

“Respect” is a bunch of great performances lurking in a mediocre movie. Liesl Tommy and her screenwriter did a poor job when it came to accuracy, and they resisted any assistance. So that made for a disappointment in the telling of Aretha’s story.

But is in a league by herself. Her singing is rapturous. She fully conveys Aretha’s artistry and voice. Forget all that hype about Franklin selecting Hudson. The fact is, Hudson studied Aretha. She gets her intonations, her attitude. It’s not a matter of singing. It’s one of delivery. So Tommy made mistakes about who sang background or whatever. JHud made no mistakes.

I knew Aretha pretty well. There are times in this performance that I could see Hudson understood things about Aretha and translated them. You know, Aretha Franklin was very smart. Once she got control of her life, after two children were born, she asserted herself. She knew the power of her gift. I think JHud saw inside of Aretha. In puzzling her out — because the Queen of Soul was a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle– Hudson put the pieces together. And they fit,

Aside from Jessica Chastain and “Tammy Faye,” no other actress threw herself into a role like Hudson. For me, these two actresses, Hudson and Chastain, plus Kidman, Cruz, and either Gaga or Stewart should make the top 5 this time around. Not having a Black actress would be a shame, but not having an actress who deserves the recognition, whatever race, would be worse.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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