Amy photo starrating-4stars.jpgAn effective documentary sheds light on a subject heretofore seen as an an enigma. For those casually aware, Amy Winehouse was a troubled singer that fell prey to the perils of drugs, drinking and that catch-all term we call the rock & roll lifestyle. To many she was a lamentable figure gifted with the soulful voice of an artist twice her age. Her existence cut short at 27 by her own self destructive behavior. On March 23, 2011 Amy recorded the duet “Body and Soul” with Tony Bennet. 4 months later to the day, she died.

Director Asif Kapadia assembles a portrait of a vocalist we apparently didn’t know at all. The chronicle charts Winehouse’s life from her childhood in Southgate, North London, to her death in 2011. Her hard partying public personae was the subject of talk show hosts’ jokes, but privatively she was a depressed soul needing guidance, someone to say “No” to her vices. Amy’s mother, Cynthia, reveals she was afraid to get tough with her young daughter. Amy told her mom she was “too soft.” Amy’s parents’ divorce when she was 9 is a turning point that negatively affected her behavior. By 13 she was already on antidepressants. Kapadia interviews her friends, family members and the collaborators who knew her. These sound bites play as recorded narration behind home videos. Few had the intimate picture of Winehouse as her first manager, Nick Shymansky. Her early path to fame taped with a cheap video camera. Her raw talent on full display along with her addictions, depression and bulimia. Both sides are recounted through newly assembled interviews, rare photos and unearthed films.

Director Asif Kapadia presents a legend-in-the-making. What impresses is the striking contrast between the simplicity her life before she achieved massive fame and the way it changed afterward. The frail singer dogged by aggressive swarms of paparazzi stalking her with flashbulbs that go off like strobe lights in a disco. Amy was driven by a love of jazz music but also plagued by demons. She was unprepared for the rabid notoriety she archived. By the time of her final concert in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, she was a woman completely unraveled. Unable or unwilling to even perform as she stumbled about the stage in an apparent daze while thousands screamed for her to sing. What ultimately comes through is the tender portrayal of a shy but gifted singer whose outrageous conduct often overshadowed her stunning talent during her lifetime. Friend Tony Bennet compares her to the likes of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. It might sound like hyperbole, but coming as it does near the end of this documentary, it sounds perfectly reasonable.


12 Responses to “Amy”

  1. It still leaves in you tears even after knowing how it is going to end.


  2. I’ve been dying to see this one, Mark. Fortunately, a fairly local theater has decided to show it…now I just have to find a moment to see it.

    Also – completely off topic, but just a word of advice – skip the new Vacation movie. Avoid it with your life. I didn’t expect it to be good, but I made the mistake of seeing it anyway. Worst movie I have watched since Movie 43.


  3. abbiosbiston Says:

    A really good documentary about Amy. Glad you enjoyed it too.


    • It’ll be interesting to see which documentaries get nominated at the Oscars this year. That category is so bizarre. Often the best ones don’t even qualify.


  4. Great review, Mark. Curious about this one. I’m a Winehouse fan and her death made me quite sad.


  5. I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about Amy besides, “Rehab”, but Wow! What a voice. It’s very sad to see a person with so much talent get taken away by drugs. Didn’t explain everything about her, but loved this doc anyways. Very good. 4 stars


  6. Amy sounds like an insightful and heartbreaking documentary. The contrast between her life before she acieved fame and how it changed afterward seems like it would make for great subject matter. I’ve heard this is one of the must-see documentaries for this year. Would you agree?


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