The documentary “Amy” powerfully chronicles the successful and sad life of singer Amy Winehouse, who died in 2011. The Grammy-winning Jazz artist from England rose to fame with her “Back to Black” album and hit songs such as “Rehab” and “I Heard Love Is Blind”. However, her personal life was more often in the spotlight instead of her music, especially in her tragic final years, summed-up by multiple people as “a downhill spiral”.
“Amy” director Asif Kapadia collected tons of footage from Winehouse’s life, including childhood, time spent both on stage and with family and friends, and, unfortunately and shockingly, moments when she was excessively drinking and using drugs. Many of these images and video clips remain on screen for long periods of time, allowing to sink-in what was taking place while listening to members of her entourage explain what was happening and how they felt during these times, including Winehouse’s first manager, Nick, and best friends Lauren and Juliette.
Kapadia breaks-up the interviews and pictures of Winehouse, many easily worth a thousand words, with live performance footage from her early years to her final days, with the song lyrics appearing on screen as she is singing. It’s a little distracting at first, but you quickly understand how meaningful (and disturbingly true) these lyrics are.
No part of Winehouse’s life is off-limits in “Amy”. Besides the alcohol and drug problems that lead to her death, there’s her uneven relationship with her father (a few moments will have you shaking your head in disbelief), struggles with songwriting, the obsessive British paparazzi, attacks from the media on Winehouse’s health (which could’ve been explored further), and how she really felt about becoming famous (some candid interview clips).
A trio of unforgettable scenes involve Winehouse’s love of jazz and one of her idols, Tony Bennett. At a 2008 Grammy viewing party in England, Winehouse is seen in absolute shock when Bennett announces, via satellite, her name as winner for Record of the Year. (Ultimately later on that evening, Winehouse pulls a friend to the side and says that life is boring without drugs). Then, a few years later, we see Winehouse and Bennett working together in studio on his 2011 “Duets II” album. And Bennett himself mourned her passing near the end of the film, praising her as one of the greats and wishing that something could have been done to prevent her passing.
And Bennett isn’t the only one who expresses this sentiment over the course of “Amy”. Winehouse, her team and family members all tried (some more than others) to get her to keep her clean, but they were all unsuccessful. Amy Winehouse was a true talent in the music industry and she remains an inspiration to many. A documentary on her life was clearly in the plans, as she had a camera crew following her everywhere she went. It’s tragic that it had to be this film at this time. “Amy”, in compelling fashion, celebrates the life of this influential performer and fragile individual, and also shows, in sad and effective ways, how success and fame can, for some, be simply too much to handle.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Amy” gets an A-.
Running Time: 128 min.