“Amy” is a long-needed eulogy to one of music’s most tragic talents

Adrian Herrera – Entertainment Director

adrian.herrera@fiusm.com

On July 23, 2011, British singer and song-writer Amy Winehouse lost a years-long battle with depression, bulimia and addiction, leaving fans worldwide saddened and confused as to how a person with such raw talent and potential could let themselves be destroyed in the face of such overwhelming success.

Asif Kapadia’s new documentary, “Amy” puts an end to that confusion by showing viewers the woman beneath the beehive hairdo and big-voiced bravado – a woman that at her core, wanted only one thing: to sing her songs in peace.

Through a wealth of home videos, pictures and archived media footage, Kapadia follows the course of Winehouse’s life from the point in her late teens when she first considers music as a career, to her untimely death in 2011. While not always the best quality, the footage does an excellent job of breaking through the media’s cut-throat portrayal of the singer to give viewers an idea of Amy Winehouse the human being as opposed to Amy Winehouse the headline.

Besides getting to know Amy’s joking, loving personality through home videos, die-hard fans will surely be moved by videos of a young, shy, yet already powerful Amy trying out early versions of songs like “In My Bed,” and a particularly sassy performance of “Stronger than Me,” in a small, dimly lit nightclub. Yet even those unfamiliar with the Winehouse catalog will be stunned by these early videos, as they show what an effortless, natural talent she was without the need for flashy production or arrangement – all she needed was her guitar and her voice.

However we all know how this story ends. As enjoyable and positive as the first part of the film is, the latter half is necessarily brutal. Images of Winehouse’s descent into madness cut deep. But rather than going the tabloid route and using these at times depraved images as entertainment, Kapadia uses them to paint an objective picture: a simple girl that struggled with sudden success, a good-for-nothing husband riding the tails of that success and introducing drugs to an already out-of-balance lifestyle, an inattentive mother, a father who left early on only to return right when the money came in, a media feeding frenzy and above all, countless missed opportunities for someone, anyone to step in and save someone incapable of saving themselves. It is difficult to watch, even anger-inducing, yet is highly commendable for showing the songstress in humane light for perhaps the first time.

Whether you are a fan of Amy Winehouse or not, this film will make and break your heart. It is an excellent tribute to one of our generation’s greatest and least understood talents but also a warning that pop culture loves to eat its own.

 

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