Movie Review - Amy

Director Asif Kapadia does not allow this documentary to be a series of talking heads or any talking heads at all. Most of it is bodiless voices mixed together underneath many still photos. Amy Winehouse, the singer-songwriter from north London who is Jewish but with vocals like a blues or jazz artist, had lots of photos and video taken of her before she became famous. After she became famous, the paparazzi hounded her daily. It was so much that Kapadia didn't need to pick up a camera. There was a wealth, or a cornucopia of footage that he could detail her life moment-by-moment from the age 16 all the way to her death on July 23, 2011 at the age of 27 without injecting any film or footage shot by him at all.

There are two forces at work here. The first is showing what inspired Winehouse's music. The other is showing her drug and alcohol addiction. Neither force is particularly compelling or interesting. The inspiration for Winehouse's music came from the relationship she had with Blake Fielder. This is the cliche of cliches. All musicians, especially female artists, have had this narrative over and over again. Speaking of which, so many musicians have done the drug and alcohol addiction as a narrative over and over. That aspect is hackneyed. It might all be true, but it's nothing new.

It's interesting to see Winehouse writing and recording songs like "Back to Black" as she's actually in the studio. It's also shocking to see her at her worst. Unfortunately, Kapadia is rather hands-off in terms of commentary or questioning things.

Winehouse kept reiterating how she didn't want to be famous. Yet, she allowed cameras to capture everything she did, even before she recorded her first song "Stronger Than Me." That song has some very sexist and borderline, homophobic lyrics. It's also odd that Fielder dumps Winehouse early in her career but after she became a superstar thanks to "Rehab," Fielder gets back together with her.

It's not a surprise that her on-again, off-again relationship with Fielder is what inspired the lyrics to her songs, at least her later ones. It's not a surprise. It's typical. It's very typical. What's also typical is her drug addiction. Drug use and drug addiction are such common narratives for stories or biographies about musicians that hearing about Winehouse's drug use is boring. It's sad for sure but boring.

I also found it odd that this film was nominated for the Queer Palm Award at this year's Cannes Film Festival where it premiered. I don't know why it was nominated for this award. The film doesn't have any LGBT characters who identify as such. If it deals with LGBT themes, I don't know what they are. Unless, Kapadia is himself gay, then this film should never have been nominated for that award. It lost to Todd Haynes' Carol, but it still shouldn't have been nominated. Yet, this is not the first time a non-LGBT film has been up for the Queer Palm. Whiplash did the same thing last year.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language and drug material.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 8 mins.


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