Review: Amy- a tragic, riveting must see

On my drive home from North Carolina yesterday, we were treated to one fireworks display after another. The thing that struck me about this wasn’t that we had fireworks on the 4th of July but how many cars I actually saw pull off of the highway just to catch a glimpse quick burst of luminescence before the color fizzled and was gone forever. That image brought me back to a documentary that I saw last Wednesday entitled Amy. Amy Winehouse was the living embodiment of a 4th of July fireworks demonstration. She quickly rose into the stratosphere of music stardom gaining national acclaim only to fizzle rapidly when addiction brought her life to a screeching halt.

Asif Kapadia had the monumental task of putting this project together. I’m sure a lot of you are wondering what exactly I’m alluding to when I say monumental but it’s hard to achieve total objectivity in a documentary when you are being produced with the blessing of the late singers family. Asif Kapadia said in a statement to Rolling Stone Magazine,” We came on board with the full backing of the Winehouse family, and we approached the project with total objectivity.” The director continued “We conducted one hundred interviews with people that knew Amy. The story that the film tells is a reflection of our findings from these interviews.” One can’t deny that Asif Kapadia went about this the right away in search finding out what lead this bright shining star to fizzle out so rapidly. The film (which is due to come out July 10th) has already touched a nerve with the Winehouse family.

Speaking to The Sun on April 14th, Mitch Winehouse stated,” I felt sick when I watched it for the first time. Amy would have been furious. This is not what she would have wanted.” If you see the documentary, you will understand exactly why he would be so bothered by it. Mr. Kapadia presents a very compelling argument that the one person who may have had the biggest hand in leading her down a dark road of addiction was her own father. Was he the one that was handing her the pills? No, but the constant pressure of producing new songs and simply not acknowledging the fact that she needed help was enough of a catalyst that lead her down that dark path. This film doesn’t let anyone off the hook and presents compelling proof that even her tour management even went as far to feed her addiction by getting her heroin even while she was in rehab.

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Through the use of interviews and archival footage you get the distinct impression of a young lady who was dealing with even deeper demons than the obvious ones associated with addiction. Amy’s tour manager at the time even told her that she should go to rehab. Amy stated “that she would go to rehab if her dad signed off on it.” They drove 50 miles to his home and flat out asked her dad to which he responded “absolutely not.” We learn that Amy turned this all too important moment (with the help of Mark Ronson) into the song Rehab that would jettison her into super stardom. Amy presents a haunting look at the life of an artist who found joy in her music and grief in the fame associated with it. The film will continue to garner negativity from the Winehouse family because as the saying goes, the truth hurts. I just read this morning in The Hollywood Reporter, that Mitch Winehouse is even considering his own movie to try and contradict the findings of the Amy documentary.

You can’t deny the brilliance of this documentary. The simplicity in which the director mixes in the archival footage with the music and the interviews they did is marvelous. This documentary is 2 hours long and I found myself wanting to reach out to the screen and help a truly doomed soul. You get to see the young clean Amy Winehouse that many of use never saw head down that rabbit hole of fame and ultimately make choices that lead to her untimely death. Amy seems to be living embodiment of tortured soul. I fully expect to hear about this documentary garnering award consideration towards the end of the year (SEFCA, Florida Film Critics) which will eventually lead to it being nominated for either a Golden Globe or an Oscar. This type of film making should be awarded and celebrated.

Amy Winehouse on stage
Amy Winehouse on stage
Could the person to blame for Amy's tragic  demise be her father?
Could the person to blame for Amy’s tragic demise be her father?
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.