Just A Little Bit...
To cover Aretha Franklin´s life is a challenge hard to accomplish. The movie "Resepct", co-produced and lead by Franklin´s expressively desired actress friend Jennifer Hudson, about the upbringing and early life of the national heroine does not do her legacy justice. As much as we get to know her outstanding musical talent and important work as an activist the origin of what the movie calls her "demons" is treated astonishingly casual.
Franklin was abused by men from an early age on, becoming pregnant when she was twelve and again when she was fourteen years old, a fact that seems not to bother her minister father nor any of his prestigous friends like Martin Luther King; her goodhearted grandmother just raised her children together with her sisters, and Franklin seemed to be more concerned about her career than about her shameful youth. For a moment you even get the impression that she is mothering her own father´s children - he acts as possessive as only abusing fathers do - at least those "friends" of the family she used to perform for on Saturday nights are invited to visit her bedroom whenever they want to.
Her only guardian angel, the divorced mother she sees every other weekend, dies early and only gets another ghost appearance when Aretha´s adult life hits rock bottom, telling her to get rid of her demons and just feel sad instead.
"Take your broken heart, make it into art", a sentence famously expressed by another abused child becoming a heavy drug abuser, Carrie Fisher, is a line that comes to your mind while watching the movie and I´d wish script and direction would have made more of this: How come this movie turns Franklin´s horrible upbringing into a certain way of life, like, something you can compensate with singing and becoming a star?
There is even kind of a happy ending when she finally sings gospels again, in the church that first made her find her voice - her minister father sitting front row moved to tears by the homecoming of his lost daughter. Shouldn´t she rather try to get this hypocritical bastard out of her life for good? Like her mother who left him exactly for that, after years of fighting against him (in one scene her sisters remind her of how they all used to flee to the roof and sing as loud as they could to drown out their screaming - Aretha had obviously repressed those scenes from her memory).
Aretha Franklin was my heroine when I was a teenager because her famous song that gave the movie its title was in a way the hymn of my generation´s girl power.
Little did I know how much she must have longed for "just a little bit" of respect.