REVIEW: “Amy”

AMY BANNER

I know this will kill my chances of being the coolest guy in the room, but I couldn’t name you one Amy Winehouse song. That’s not a slight to her. I’m simply not into newer music like I once was. But despite that I certainly knew who Amy Winehouse was. From 2003 through 2011 Winehouse became an international music sensation. Her powerful vocals and jazz-influenced sound gave her a uniqueness that was embraced by millions around the world. Unfortunately her life was also troubled which led to her sad and untimely death in 2011 at the age of only 27.

Asif Kapadia’s documentary simply titled “Amy” seeks to shed light on the young woman behind the music and the headlines. It offers viewers a chance to reevaluate Winehouse by diving deeper into her personal life, close relationships, and intense emotional struggles. Music is a key part of the film, but this is first and foremost an individual inner-exploration. And as someone who knew more about Winehouse from news headlines, this is an insightful and eye-opening look.

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Amazingly so much of Winehouse’s rise to fame and eventual tragic slide was caught on video. Kapadia gained access to hundreds of hours of footage highlighting her life much of it never before seen. Some of the footage comes from performances including her disastrous final show in Belgrade, Serbia approximately a month before she died.

Juggling this wealth of real-time information must have been a formidable undertaking, but Kapadia’s decisions on what to include and what to omit couldn’t have been much better. And then there are segments pulled from over 100 interviews. Kapadia’s approach along with Chris King’s impeccable editing create a fluid and cohesive narrative that will undoubtedly shed a new light on a talented young woman scared by her past and overwhelmed by her present.

“Amy” tells the singer’s story while also looking at a number of other pertinent topics such as aggressive media obsession, drug addiction, alcoholism, harmful relationships, and destructive personal lifestyles. These topics aren’t  wielded as weapons of judgment towards Amy Winehouse. They are respectfully used to explain and put her troubled life into perspective. But at the same time you can’t help but sense the subtle warnings Kapadia is showing us. These elements combine to give us an interesting and challenging documentary that transcends the simplicity of music or entertainment.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4 Stars

20 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Amy”

  1. “I know this will kill my chances of being the coolest guy in the room, but I couldn’t name you one Amy Winehouse song.” That’s OK, Keith. I can’t, either. 🙂

    On another note, while I haven’t seen “Amy” yet (though I really, really want to at some point), I have seen a film co-directed by that same director, “Oasis: Supersonic”. You should totally check that out as well, especially since I’m pretty sure it’s still on Netflix.

    • Oh great! Thank you for that recommendation. I’ll definitely look it up. One thing is for sure, Oasis probably gives a documentarian A LOT to cover!

      • Yeah, they certainly do. If anything, I felt that film’s biggest flaw was more or less glossing over some the darker parts of their story. For example, the band’s drug problems are certainly a topic here, but they aren’t explored nearly as deeply as they probably should have been. I still had a ton of fun watching it, though, so it’s an easy 8/10 for me.

  2. I saw this a few years ago as it shocked the hell out of me over not just the growing rise of Winehouse’s fame which she was unprepared for but also someone who really wasn’t enjoying the fame. It was a shocking film and certainly one that a lot of people need to see.

    • It’s definitely there. I found it effective simply because it gives us a good sense of what she was going through. The paparazzi played a part in her troubles and I think the doc was using their footage in an attempt to show how. But you’re right, it does make it a bit uncomfortable.

  3. Excellent doc. The toughest part for me was how her dad’s cavalier attitude towards her problems contributed to her ultimate demise. This dude just bowed to whatever she wanted even when she clearly needed the opposite. Janis: Little Girl Blue, about Janis Joplin is also an eye-opening watch.

  4. Asif Kapaidia attempts to pose the question of whether Amy’s death was inevitable or whether pressure from those closest to her along with intense media scrutiny pushed her over the edge. To some extent he is successful but so much of Amy’s story played out so openly in the media after her explosion of popularity following the release of Back to Black that if feels a bit like you’ve seen it all before. Where Kapaidia definitely does succeed is in making the audience wonder what would have been next from Amy if she had not succumbed to the disease of addiction and continued to explore and refine her considerable musical talent. it also helps to gain an understanding of just how personal and raw her lyrics were with the focus always completely on self-expression and a kind of release of her demons rather than any desire for stardom or commercial success. A fitting if unoriginal tribute to this iconic superstar.

    • Well said! It definitely caught me by surprise. To be perfectly honest, this is one of several reviews that had been in my drafts for a long time. Yet I still remember the doc and how it opened my eyes.

  5. Pingback: REVIEW: “Amy” — Keith & the Movies | First Scene Screenplay Festival

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