- on Friday, 10 July 2015 14:38
- by Frank Wilkins
There’s a prophetic line in Amy Winehouse’s grammy award-winning song, Rehab that is as telling about her own doomed fate as it is damning to the men in her life. She wrote the song at a critical juncture as her rocket ride to stardom was fizzling from the ravages of drug and alcohol addiction. She defiantly refused a healing stint in drug and alcohol rehab by putting trust in the better judgment of her own father, Mitch. In the song she croons “I ain’t got the time, and if my daddy thinks I'm fine.” But we learn in Asif Kapadia’s new documentary Amy, that although he knew she wasn’t strong enough for what life was throwing at her, Mitch continued to use his daughter’s newfound fame for his own best interests.
That’s just one of the many heartbreaking revelations in Kapadia’s powerful film that uses archival home movies, concert footage, and recorded voices from friends and family to take us on the devastating ride that not only exposes Amy’s self-destructive nature, but blisters the modern-day culture of fame, fortune, and the sad fate of those ill prepared to face them.
The film opens with a home movie of Winehouse at 14 singing Happy Birthday to a friend. It’s one of the film’s most cheerful moments as she looks truly happy and healthy with a sparkle in her eye not yet dampened by the nihilistic, fast-living charge that will soon take her over. Yet it’s also one of the film’s saddest, as the gloom of her eventual fate hangs over the proceedings like a dark veil. We’ll never see that youthful spark again as her self-destructive path began shortly thereafter.
Though her drug and alcohol abuse and tragic fate are quite well known – as are her six Grammy awards including Record of the Year in 2011, little else is. We fans, especially those stateside, recall her skeletal frame hunkering through a constant parade of paparazzi and camera flashes. But Kapadia pulls back the curtain with a brilliantly edited series of interviews, performances, and her own words to show us just how much songs like Fade to Black and Rehab were exact reflections of her real thoughts and emotions. Ironically, the on-again-off-again relationship with drug-using bad-boy Blake Fielder was responsible for some of her best work, but ultimately contributed to her downward spiral.
Kapadia and company persuaded a large number of family, friends, and acquaintances to participate and contribute to the film. We hear from some of her promoters, producers, tour managers and even from childhood best friends Lauren Gilbert, and Juliette Ashby who are featured in the opening Happy Birthday video. But refreshingly, none of it is presented in talking head-style interviews. Most of the first-hand accounts play over home movie footage interspersed with concert videos that feature that song’s lyrics, giving us an insightful look into the mind of a troubled soul.
Most of those who loved and were closest to Amy were unfortunately the biggest enablers to her vices and subsequently, don’t come off very favorably in the film. She was particularly needy of men and many of her song lyrics reflect that insatiable desire to be loved and wanted. But her father, husband, and second manager – the strong men in her life – instead rode her fame and fortune until she eventually collapsed in her London home in 2011. Make no mistake though. No one but Amy was responsible for her own death. And Kapadia never sugarcoats that fact. But as a result, Amy is an incredibly tough film to watch as we witness one of the millenium’s brightest talents self-destruct in a most heartbreaking manner. We can’t help but come away from Amy realizing that it is yet another film about the sad waste of a great talent. Though we know the ending, we can’t turn our eyes away.
MPAA Rating: R for language and drug material.
Runtime: 128 mins
Director: Asif Kapadia
Cast: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Mark Ronson
Genre: Music | Documentary
Tagline: A heartbreaking journey. A ground breaking motion picture.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Life teaches you how to live it. If you live long enough."
Official Site: http://www.amy-movie.com/
Release Date: July 10, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: A documentary on the late singer/songwriter, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011.
No details available.