Drinking Game (water might be appropriate)
Take a Drink: for each heartbreaking moment
Take a Drink: whenever Winehouse’s songs play
Do a Shot: at any mention of drugs or alcohol
Take a Drink: for a Yasiin Bey cameo
By: Matt Conway (A Toast) –
As much as I love movies, it’s safe to say that music is my first love. It’s perhaps the most unique form of self-expression, as just a turn of a radio dial can give you a completely different style and tone. Nearly everyone has their own personal favorites and strong opinions about songs, which can lead to some rather interesting discussion to say the least.
One of the artists that caught my eye a few years back was Amy Winehouse. With her Jazz-inspired vocals and her booming voice, Winehouse gave audiences a unique voice in a modern culture full of putrid pop songs. She put her heart and soul into each song she sung, which made her untimely death back in 2011 extra tragic. The documentary feature Amy looks into the life and work of Winehouse, and is thankfully an extremely engaging and powerful look into her influential talent.
Amy follows the life of Amy Winehouse, from her days first getting on her feet in the music industry, to her struggles with success and her battle with addiction.
An issue prevalent in documentaries is making the information presented interesting for fans and non-fans alike. Director Asif Kapadia and his team, who previously did the criminally underrated Senna, thrive at this. The mixture of clips from Amy’s past accompanied by one of her songs or an interview meshes perfectly, really gluing one’s eyes to the screen. At 128 minutes, Amy is consistently engaging, which is impressive considering its length.
Kapadia and company also do a great job of fitting in so much information for its length. The film linearly jumps around from when she was a young teen to her untimely death, capturing the moments in her life that shaped who she became. The team behind the film also clearly did their research, with audiences likely learning a fair share of new details about Winehouse’s life and the people surrounding her.
Obviously a big part of Amy Winehouse’s life is music, which is captured on the dot here. Amy includes many of her greatest hits, such as “Back to Black” and “Rehab”. Her booming voice has never sounded better, as hearing her voice on the big screen was a special kind of experience. Key insights into her love of music and why she created the songs she wrote give the audience much more of an appreciation of her music, as she puts a great deal of pain and soul into her songs.
My personal favorite.
Not only are there great insights into her music, but also into Amy and the people around her. Kapadia and his team capture each person with a great deal of honesty and complexity, never painting these people as one-note characters. Some of the people in the film like Amy’s dad Mitch have come out saying the film unfairly captures these folks, but I think that rings false. Even with people shown doing a great deal of negative deeds, Kapadia captures their misguided, yet good intentions.
For fans and non-fans alike, the journey Amy takes its audience on is a gut-wrenching and devastating one. Watching Winehouse’s downward spiral is heartbreaking, as a girl who just wanted to be loved by her family and those around her is continually used for her wealth and fame, neither of which she ever cared about. The film thoughtfully humanizes Winehouse, which is seldom done when discussing celebrities.
Kapadia does not hold back either when it comes to her spiral, showing her continuously worsening psychical and emotional state. Shocking pictures and clips are hard to forget, as seeing her become almost a shell of herself will pull an emotional reaction out of anyone. It sure as hell did for me.
The moments of Amy that truly are most effective are some of the smaller scenes. One scene in particular shows the pure state of awe Winehouse was in after winning a Grammy award, delivered by her idol Tony Bennett. This is the kind of moment that reminds audiences of the joy that music brought Winehouse, which makes the later years even harder to endure.
Kapadia and his team also clearly have a lot more on their mind then most would doing a character study like this. Amy does a brutally honest job of showing the way Winehouse was treated by the media, from constant paparazzi following her everywhere she goes, to late night hosts like Jay Leno roasting her during her downward spiral. It shows the kind of venomous nature media and the general public have towards celebrity, over-glorifying their imperfections and mocking their struggles. Amy leaves the audience with a great deal to think about.
Amy is not all doom and gloom, however; it’s also a great celebration of what Winehouse was able to achieve with her great career. She modernized Jazz for many modern music fans, introducing them to what was looked at as an increasingly obscure genre. Her soulful lyrics clearly connected with millions, displaying very real issues of love and loss that people deal with every day. Not only that, but the film does a nice job of showing how Winehouse’s success was able to open the door for more unique voices in music.
An extremely informative, thoughtful, and emotionally powerful flick, Amy is one of the best documentaries in recent years. Newcomers to Winehouse’s work will fall in love, while fans of her work will continue to miss her more and more. Not only that, but Asif Kapadia continues to cement himself as one of the best documentary filmmakers working today.