Movie Critic Paul McGuire Grimes from Paul’s Trip to the Movies chats with one of the deaf star from the movie, Coda. The movie scores a perfect 5 out of 5 ticket stubs from Paul and he also gives us his review of the Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect.
The new film CODA walked away from the Sundance Fest Festival leaving an imprint on its audience and picked up four big awards including the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. At the center of the film is Ruby Rossi, played by Emilia Jones. Get to her name as you’ll blown away by her performance. Ruby is a high school student who has spent her life being the sole American Sign Language interpreter for her family. Her parents her brother Leo are all deaf, while Ruby is hearing. She’s referred to as a CODA, a child of deaf adults. Her father and brother work as fishermen in their home of Gloucester, Massachusetts, but the income is minimal until they decide to branch out on their own family business. Ruby’s coming into her own identity carving out plans to attend Berklee College of Music while feeling the pressure to stay behind as her family relies on her.
At first, CODA may seem like a simple little story about a high school girl coming into her own. She finds her voice and talents through music while struggling with pressures at home. It’s a lesson in communication and the many forms it takes on.
RATING: 5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
RESPECT (in theaters)
It’s clear that Jennifer Hudson was born to play the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. She’s even said Franklin hand-picked her to star in the film version of her life. Like far too many biopics before it, Respect covers a lot of ground spanning decades of Aretha’s life going back to her troubled childhood. We learn that her father was a respected preacher with a large following. Her mother would go on to pass away when Aretha was very young, but her words of advice and love of music never left Aretha. Her childhood was marked by being sexually assaulted at a very young age. She would continue to sing in her father’s traveling ministries, and he would go on to ignite her music career. She lead a rough life plagued with years of mental and physical abuse which she poured into her music.
It’s tricky for biopics to not fall into the trap of trying to cover too much territory. Respect is guilty of that in trying to tell the full picture of Aretha’s life. The film feels divided into three acts. The rise of a talented Black woman, the fall due to fame and alcoholism, and a return to grace.
The first act of Respect plays well leaning into the story of getting to know Aretha the Black woman and her traumatic early years. This is the side of Aretha I was most unfamiliar with and adds the depth of what made her music resonate. We see her come into her own voice sticking to what she knows best and turning to family to help her out.
The second act is where the pacing begins to drag as we’ve seen how stardom and fame affects talent in nearly every biopic. It’s heartbreaking to see her fall to alcoholism, but it was the least interesting angle of the film.
It then ends on a high note of which I won’t give away but reminds us that it’s called “Respect” not only because it’s the name of her rousing anthem, but to respect Aretha as a Black woman who rose above it all despite the numerous hardships along the way.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS