By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
As I have grown older, I have become less and less interested in what’s “hot” in music. Right around the time Amy Winehouse took the record charts by storm, I had already begun tuning out of pop music and focusing on my old favorites. Sadly, my only knowledge of the singer would come from whatever tabloid news I couldn’t avoid. With the internet taking over news and yellow journalism, it has become increasingly hard to avoid celebrity scandals. Winehouse became famous at a time that the internet exploded with such garbage. Having sat through Amy the documentary, I became better acquainted with Amy Winehouse, the extraordinarily talented singer/songwriter, and am much wiser for it. At the same time, I am even more mournful for the loss of a brilliant artist who became a victim of not only her own personal problems, but also the ugly side of fame.
Directed by Asif Kapadia (Senna), Amy introduces the world to Amy, the person, and reflects upon a life and career that devolves quickly and comes to a very tragic end. Kapadia has compiled archival footage and audio from interviews and recording sessions, along with new interviews with the some of the people who knew her best, including her parents, her ex-husband Blake Fielder, and assorted close friends and associates. Kapadia’s film gives audiences a comprehensive look at her teen years, her humble beginnings in music, her explosive success, the bad relationships, the bad decisions, the substance abuse, and various failed attempts to recover. The result is an affecting portrait of a life in trouble early on, and how those troubles escalated as success offered everything at her disposal. A lifestyle of success and excess could not heal the wounds of an artist who would eventually grow to hate all that she was and had.
I was both captivated and crushed by this exceptional documentary that offers a judgment-free, personal look at Amy Winehouse. This documentary is a must-see for anyone who thinks they know Amy Winehouse, but are solely basing their opinions on the image portrayed by tabloid journalism. Fans of Winehouse and her music will also appreciate witnessing the sadness and depression that fueled Amy’s songs and passionate live performances. Audiences also will get a glimpse into some of the more joyful moments in her life–the moments that made her laugh, smile and put twinkles in her eyes. Kapadia never gets heavy handed in attempting to deliver any magnanimous messages or cautionary statements, but simply presents the facts in an unbiased way. I went into this documentary knowing so little about Amy Winehouse and her music, but left a fan of her songs. I was also left distraught that she will no longer write these incredible songs and perform them ever again.