The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
Amy (Altitude Film Distribution)
Directed by Asif Kapadia
Starring Amy Winehouse
Amy is the heartbreaking and tragic tale of a jazz singer. I was never a fan of her music. Although I, like everyone else, owned Back to Black. The album is amazing. I just wasn’t a fan of her style. I always thought it was contrived and derivative and a horribly pedestrian example of cultural appropriation. But after watching the movie. No scratch that. After watching the FIRST HALF of the movie, I’ve changed my mind on the subject completely. And I have a new appreciation for her genius. She was an exceptional songwriter. Amy is a gripping documentary on the musician… on the extremely talented musician and songwriter. And I was never a fan. But now I am.
Amy Winehouse becomes enormously famous. We all know that. Just obnoxiously overexposed and talked about. And her drug use. I make no secret that I had a decade or so of drug use myself. And like Amy, crack was my drug of choice. But I only had my “self” to blame. In Amy, we see a little girl crying out for help from the first frame to the last. From before she becomes mega famous. Even before she’d taken toke one or drink one. But the talent just pours out of her like a waterfall spewing from the side of a majestic mountainside. Wow. The sheer raw talent coming off this little girl. Just wow!!!
Amy is such a beautiful movie in the beginning. I mean, make no mistake, Amy Winehouse is a mess from the start. But she’s an artistic mess. She’s one of those personalities that you excuse being cruel or weird or abrasive because she is beautiful in every other way and you just want to be near her, near her even when she’s treating you like dirt. Amy is beautiful in the beginning. And the first thing I noticed was her weight. She was healthy when she made that first album. She was a drinker and partyer, yes. But she was a musician first. Music was her drug and you could see how it made her happy.
The second half of the movie, Amy, is just plain painful to watch. She gets every thing she wants. She gets fame and she gets love and she gets to meet her heroes and she gets awards and adoration. And she gets an eating disorder, a dysfunctional relationship with the love of her life, an entourage of enablers that include her family and closest friends, and she gets the love of music, her first love, ripped away from her. It’s fucking painful to watch and I’m crying even writing about it. The movie made me weep uncontrollably.
But during this time, her writing talent takes center stage and she writes song after song about her relationships with drugs and her addict boyfriend and her tortured soul and her fucked up mind. And these songs are outstanding. Even more so when you see where they come from. Every word has meaning, a reference, a truth. She hides nothing. And you watch her create this magic. The entire movie is found footage, SO YOU GET TO WATCH. (this is the true found footage genre) A collection of personal videos from her manager and friends and family make-up the entire film. There is nothing added. Just a collage of moments in her life captured amateur-ly and sloppily on home video.
In Amy, you watch her create this musical magic and at the same time you watch her waste away. And we know the ending. We already know what happens. It’s the beginnings that we didn’t know. And well, the beginning is beautiful. The beginnings of an amazing artist. All I knew was the spectacle at the end. So I had little respect for an artist that threw away that much talent. She didn’t. It’s right there on the tape. She cries out for help in every frame. With every note. With every powerful poem she writes. And they all love her but don’t know how to tell her no. And her manager and promoter don’t want the checks to stop and they can’t say no. And her friends can’t tell her no. And no one comes to her aid.
Spoiler Alert but it’s well-known that at one pivotal point in her life she asks her father if she should go to rehab. She needs an adult. She needs guidance. She’s been crying out for it her whole life. So she asks her father if she should get that help, if she should go to rehab. But we already know what he says. Everyone in the world knows what he says.
Amy is a wonderful film about a talented and strong woman looking for someone stronger. Someone strong enough to help her to tame her destructive nature. But she never finds it and eventually destroys herself. It is heartbreaking and hauntingly beautiful and I recommend it even if you’re not a fan… and by that I mean, not a fan yet.