A documentary on the life of Amy Winehouse, the immensely talented yet doomed songstress. We see her from her teen years, where she already showed her singing abilities, to her finding success and then her downward spiral into alcoholism and drugs.Written by
"You should be tougher mum, you're not strong enough to say stop." Amy Winehouse
Don't we all wish this gifted British jazz singer had heeded her advice to her beloved mother? But she didn't and lost her young life to drugs, alcohol, relentless fame, and a father, husband, manager and a whole menagerie of hangers on, whose motives were suspicious at the least. Or, maybe I should say her father, Nick, is only the most obvious sinner as he gains a reality TV show and allows his daughter to perform even in the face of her decline.
Although Amy the documentary doesn't give anyone a pass, it does show Amy's slow descent into dependencies that can only in the end be characterized as her own. The strength of the doc, however, is not to blame everyone except by implication and their very words, some of which are voiced over rather than through boring talking heads.
The first half of the film is a glorious catalogue of her young days at home and then early on singing jazz. Her tight dresses and fab legs don't even distract when we watch the essence of soul emerge out of her voice and face. Even I, barely knowledgeable in the genre, could spy greatness in her every breath.
As if to remind us of her genius, she comes back from rehab to briefly exonerate herself by singing a duet with Tony Bennett. Her diffidence with that icon next to her is as endearing as it is appropriate, given his stature in the business and her relative inexperience. Yet, Bennett himself acknowledges her gifts and compares her to the greats like Ella Fitzgerald.
Amy is director Asif Kapadia's unforgettable achievement, one of the finest music documentaries ever. However, it is not an easy ride, especially when we can feel ever so slightly complicit as we contribute to the crushing adulation of celebrity and unvarnished love of capitalism. Some like Amy Winehouse need to back away from both before it kills them.
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