Fourth Coast Entertainment -

Craig Thornton 

Amy - Movie Review


Last updated 10/1/2015 at 6:46am | View PDF

Amy Winehouse

Amy, the documentary about the six time Grammy winner Amy Winehouse (one win posthumously) is a riveting, yet deeply sad tale of fame and addiction. Director Asif Kapadia's film is so intimate and vivid, it is as if Amy has never died and she is alive and ready to write another album. Alas, she isn't and Winehouse's spiral down not only seems inevitable from the beginning of her fame, but inevitable from the beginning of her life. The sadness of this is ineffable, as her talent was alarmingly singular.

Born into a middle-class Jewish family in North London, Amy was musically inclined at an early age. Several of her uncles were Jazz musicians, her grandmother was a singer. She was prodigious and writing music as an early teen. A child of divorce and questionable, if not bad parenting, Amy certainly had little discipline and authority as a child. She walked all over her parents as a child and perhaps these loose boundaries contributed to her addiction proclivities. Regardless, her addictive behavior seemed to be almost innate.

There are no filmed interviews with Winehouse's family, friends or professional colleagues. There are voice over excerpts from interviews, but the talking heads that are a staple of documentaries, just don't happen here. They aren't needed, because there are so many videos and photographs of Amy, especially after her fame soared, that you will know her well without commentary from people in her life. She lived in a fishbowl.

Meteoric fame is challenging for anyone, but especially difficult for someone like Amy, who had always struggled with balance. Add the notoriously rabid and predatory British press and paparazzi and the marketing of Amy as a rock star, when she was really a Jazz singer and you have a tragedy in the making. The footage of the Serbian concert where Amy was unable to perform because she was so drunk is startling. Amy wanted to write music and perform in intimate venues. She had no desire to be a Rock Star. However musicians in the 21st century make most of their income from concerts and it just seemed logical to promote her as a star. After all, you cannot be too famous. Or can you? Fame was no solace, if anything it precipitated her demise as it created an unreality that she desired to escape from.

Her substance abuse (cocaine, heroin, meth and of course alcohol) and her bulimia weakened her greatly physically, but her bad choice in men certainly didn't help. Her dream man was an opportunist who was convicted of a crime and served jail time. However, even he couldn't handle the mess that Amy had become near the end. He divorced her.

Messy, high-maintenance, vulnerable, difficult to love, wounded, but immensely talented Amy is definitely the portrait of a tortured artist. Without Amy being Amy songs like "Rehab," "You Know I'm No Good" and "Back to Black" would not be part of our musical canon. Yes it is a tragedy, but it is a tragedy that has left shinning, inimitable music behind. Amy was real, raw and phenomenally honest and Kapadia's film illuminates and celebrates her, without glorifying her bad girl behavior. It is a must for music fans and especially Winehouse fans.


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