It’s a brave soul who steps into the shoes of Aretha Franklin, but chief among the reasons to see this new biopic of her is Jennifer Hudson.
Already an Oscar winner for her stunning turn in the screen adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls, she’s surely a contender for Academy Award gold again off the back of Respect. The broader film around her? Well, perhaps less so.
The idea of an Aretha Franklin biopic has been cooking for a long time, and the iconic music star was actively involved in its development up to her death in 2018.
The final movie has ended up in the capable hands of director Liesl Tommy and writers Tracey Scott Wilson and Callie Khouri. What they’ve fashioned between them is a film that certainly celebrates Franklin’s life, but also one that never really leaps off the screen.
It’s always tricky to criticise the narrative structure of a film so closely mirroring someone’s life, and most films of this ilk thus follow a rise, fall, and then rise again story organically.
There’s certainly a flavour of that here, but also it’s a loyal film, determined to do right by its subject. That’s very much admirable, but also it means that the film is reluctant to move outside its tramlines. It wants to bite off a large chunk of Franklin’s story, and tell it as faithfully as possible.