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Amy - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: A-
Writing: A
Cinematography: A-
Editing: A

The first half of the ultimately stunning Amy plays like a pretty conventional documentary, establishing Amy Winehouse as the force of talent we all already knew her to have been, a young woman far more concerned with escaping troubles at home into her own spaces filled with musical expression and excess. It takes a while to reveal itself to be something truly special, as well as uniquely tragic.

This was a young woman who transcended both racial and international divides, uniting listeners with her stunningly original voice. Early on in the film, we see her expressing a desire only to be able to sing and make music. She turns something as simple as "Happy Birthday" on a mid-nineties home video into something you want to hear again. But of course, plenty of people have talent. Fate and chance can make all the difference.

Winehouse released her first album in 2003, at the age of 20. This was after catching the attention of producers and recording studios with performances around London. Consider the timing, just before smart phones and social media began to break through. These things were a big part of making Amy Winehouse arguably the most tragic popular singer of this century thus far.

We see Amy say she's not particularly interested in fame, and it's easy to believe her. But with the release of Back in Black in 2006, fame engulfed her. That album sold 20 million copies worldwide, a stunning figure for the modern music industry.

This young woman already had an addictive personality before all that craziness hit her. She had problems with alcohol, heroin, and bulimia. Director Asif Kapadia doesn't belabor the point of her parents screwing her up, but they don't come across looking so great either. One does wonder about the intentions of her father, shown bringing a camera crew to what Amy clearly would have preferred to be a private getaway. It's good to note that movies like this, no matter how well made, always have a clear bias. It's difficult to say whether how her parents come across is fair.

What's easier to glean is compassion for Amy herself, a woman who was clearly sick for a very long time, but whose fame clouded the perception of those around her regarding what help she needed and how much. It's easy to get caught up in the cultural mob mentality of mudslinging when a celebrity is down. Kapadia shows us how shameful that really is.

Amy, as a film, turns a corner when we see her on stage in the UK, learning of one of her 2008 Grammy wins. She stands looking at the satellite feed, a rare innocence just radiating from her. And then, after her win is announced, a friend confides in voice-over how Amy, then in a very rare and brief period of sobriety, told her right after getting off stage, "This is so boring without drugs." Everything about what made Amy Winehouse what she was is summed up right there.

Rarely does a film so pointedly encapsulate the downside of fame. Several sequences show the press hounding her, and this is one case in which there's no scoffing and saying she should just appreciate what she's god. The flashing of cameras is so relentless as she walks from vehicles to doorways or vice versa, it's easy to imagine it triggering a seizure for a perfectly sober person, let alone one in her state.

This is not an uplifting movie. Amy is still worth every frame of its 128 minutes. The music it features, effectively illustrating her stunning talent, is but a small part of it. It's not as simple as saying her death was a waste. Just watch her insecurities bubble to the surface in recording sessions singing a duet with her idol, Tony Bennett. She is shy, she is radiant, she has a charisma that can't be contained in spite of her apparent ignorance of it. She is the embodiment of nuance and vulnerability on the way to a tragic end, mirrored in the story arc resulting from the nearly perfect editing of this film.

Considering the era in which Amy Winehouse lived, just imagine the amount of footage of her life and performances there was available. This movie could have been a big a mess as she was. Instead, it treats her with dignity and does justice to her talent, which was impossible to contain, until it did her in.

Amy Winehouse reacts to winning one of her five 2008 Grammy Awards in the otherwise tragic AMY.

Overall: A
1 comment or Leave a comment
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: July 25th, 2015 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
It was an amazing documentary, so well put together. Great review!
1 comment or Leave a comment