In Reviews

July 3rd, 2015




This is the Amy Winehouse I never knew. I guess I had a different image of the late, great singer when I heard her on the radio. She dominated the music charts, became a 5-time Grammy winner, and lost her life too soon at the age of 27. How can you blame me? All I ever saw was news reports of her problems, not her actual music. After watching director Asif Kapadia’s recent documentary- “Amy”, I realized, like many others will after watching, that the singer’s troubled battles with addiction and bulimia, wrongfully overshadowed her greatness. She was an extraordinary talent, a throwback voice, which blows the pop crap we hear today out of the water. There will never be another Amy Winehouse, and this documentary leaves no stone unturned on her life and how she left us so soon. 

What works so well here is that this is a documentary that deals in facts. Old photos, home movies, and recordings, capture Winehouse from her humble beginnings in Southgate, England. We see her as a teenager with friends before she wore the black makeup, and before “Rehab” was even thought of in her brain. She is described (in voiceover) by her mother as an energetic child, someone who didn’t care to obey rules, which was increased by her parent’s separation. She found her passion, an escape in singing. Her voice is unmistakable, as she was destined to be one of the greats, but looking back at her fate now seemed it was inevitable. Winehouse’s life was torn apart by drugs, alcohol, her family, and paparazzi aggressively trying to have a piece of her.   

Director Asif Kapadia has a career of making documentaries about famous figures that died young. He won the BAFTA for best documentary for “Senna”, his profile on the famous Brazilian Formula 1 racer, Ayrton Senna. Here, instead of using the typical talking head interviews to give us outside information on her life, he rarely shows anything but images or footage of Winehouse, while people in her life do voiceover. We hear from her father Mitch, her former manager Nick Shymansky, and her and poisonous husband Blake Fielder, who was one of the more toxic relationships in her life. 

At a lengthy 128 minutes, “Amy” feels like a complete telling of the singer’s life, with highlights of all the important moments. We see the rise to fame in America with her hit album “Back to Black”, we watch the downfall of her dependent relationship with Fielder, who supplied her with cocaine while she was in rehab, and witness how her father used Amy more as a cash cow than a person. Doctors proclaim that she needed extensive help, only for her father to say, “we have shows to fulfill”. The interests of everyone was met; everyone but Amy’s. We also get to see clips of rare performances, while her song lyrics flow across the screen. Her love for true jazz music and the likes of Tony Bennett is captured in a rare behind the scenes look at Winehouse’s child-like reaction when Bennett announces her 2008 Grammy win for Best Pop Vocal Album. 

“Amy” is done with respectful and informal excellence. If it succeeds at anything, and it succeeds at many things, it’s that it shows us that Winehouse deserved better treatment from everyone. She was the greatest pure singer of her time and the way music is today, I don’t know if another one like her will ever come around again. Her death is a reminder to cherish the people with real talent.   

Amy Winehouse was her name and she was damn good. 

3 ½ Stars

Written by: Leo Brady


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