Ray Charles said that Aretha Franklin “sang from her inners.” For her father, C.L. Franklin, she was “a stone singer.” That’s a good description for a great singer whose voice did something that even some brilliant, technically virtuosic vocalists can’t do. When Franklin was at her most sublime, her voice seemed to give shape to the entirety of human feeling — to the joy and the despair — so much so that it seemed as if she were birthing a twinned version of herself with each breath and soul-stirring note.
The new drama “Respect” is a march-of-time fictionalization of Franklin’s life. Attractively cast and handsomely mounted — Jennifer Hudson plays the queen — it is a solid, sanitized, unfailingly polite portrait. It conforms to the familiar biopic arc: the artist begins humbly; reaches towering heights (artistic, commercial, maybe both); suffers a setback (bad lovers, addiction); only to rise higher still. In album titles, the movie flows to the beat of Franklin’s discography from “The Electrifying Aretha Franklin” to “Laughing on the Outside,” “Spirit in the Dark” and “Get It Right.”