My Rating: 5 stars
I got the opportunity to attend an advance screening of this documentary last night, and it was absolutely amazing. Sometimes audiences are pretty light for of these movie screenings—usually if it’s for some artsy drama about aging and family secrets. But, Amy Winehouse has always been a pretty controversial figure. She was always so fascinating to watch because of her amazing talent, and self-destructive impulses. And accordingly, the theater last night was packed.
I vaguely followed Amy’s troubles, back when she was tabloid fodder. But, what I realized after watching this film is just how one-sided those representations were. The media presented her as a spectacular mess . . . the walking embodiment of a hangover with her smeared makeup, ratty hair, and bruised-up body. And she was all those things. But, those reports always left out the human element of her struggle. Her addictions were very real. And, her emotions were very powerful.
This documentary also revealed to me just how charismatic Amy Winehouse was. She was wild, and alive, and a little dangerous. Her enthusiasm was magnetic. And, so everyone wanted a piece of her. You try not to have a full meltdown with the paparazzi hounding you every time you step outside. Or, if you have a very serious addiction to multiple drugs, and he media thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to make fun of you for it. Or, if your one true love was just using you for your fame and fortune. Or, if your own family was exploiting your notoriety for a few moments on TV. The story is unbelievably tragic, and this movie left me in tears. It’ll make your heart hurt watching that fragile girl trying to negotiate that minefield.
This is a pretty fascinating documentary, because it’s not just a series of talking heads discussing their relationship with Amy. The filmmaker actually managed to dig up a lot of actual footage of her as a young girl, all the way up to her tragic end. We get to see her messing around with friends, performing, recording music, making out with boys, and unfortunately drinking and using drugs. I was pretty surprised by how much footage there was. I couldn’t figure out whether the camera operators knew she was going to be a star from early on, so were trying to collect plenty of archival footage. Or, maybe it was just a function of a new generation of kids who document their whole lives. But whichever it was, the collection really created a pretty complete picture of Amy Winehouse’s heartbreaking life.
I highly recommend going to see this film whenever it is released in theaters. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house during my screening. It was that well done. The movie does an amazing job of showing us who Amy was as a person. It also reveals how it may have been the media and her fans’ thirst for more of her that ultimately did her in. It’ll really hit you hard.