Documentaries are not easy to make or take. Many of us, who are primarily theater people find them to be contrived in a manner to make the creator’s point appear to be the reason for even making the film. I walked into the screening of “Amy” knowing a bit about the life and death of this young lady (not yet 28 when her time ended) and learned a great deal more. Amy Winehouse was a huge talent. She had something very special that, both young and old, making her even more special. Entertainers, for the most part, attract a specific audience, but not Amy. Young and old adored her style, her lyrics and her sound. For a young performer, she was responsible for a great deal of others rising to the top of the heap.
Amy Winehouse was a young, Jewish girl , from London ,who had the voice of another time. She was, as Tony Bennett put it, the voice of Jazz, and for those who are into “soul music”, she was their idol as well. The documentary, directed by Asif Kapadia was put together out of the hours and hours of film on this young talent that was addicted to all to many things- drugs and alcohol were what brought her body down along with the mental struggles created by her father, Mitch and her husband. Her father, in the film appears to be a man who after leaving his daughter during his divorce from her mother, comes back into her life at the first sign that she may be a major star in the music industry, which of course would make her his “cash machine”.!
What is amazing is that in today’s world where every phone is a camera and we all have the ability to bring actual life to film is a way of life, and one we accept. There had to be hundreds of hours of video that they were able to draw from to make this film a living and breathing testimonial to what can happen in a young woman’s life if the wrong people take advantage of what they feel is their right to take. With friends and family knowing her situation and her addictions, I am sure they held onto moments that they felt would be important to the telling of her story. Even her enablers, including the media, captured moments for posterity. We are shown her rise to fame and her slide down the drain.
Those who knew her and her addictions, were fairly certain that death was greeting her at the door, but just did not know when. So, they saved films and moments. This movie, which to some may seem a bit long, tells a bold story of a woman who had the talent, but was misguided through her life. While she impressed many superstars who wanted to work with her and hear what she had to say, and fans who would do whatever to get a glimpse of her on a stage, it was her close ones that “used” her to gain for themselves no matter the cost to her. She was R & B, Jazz and swing personified. Others followed her lead and are hopeful that they can achieve the positive side of Amy Winehouse.
The film weaves interviews, actual appearances, news highlights, and footage from other sources to tell her story and does so with class and dignity. We all knew the outcome that we were going to see, yet, this film takes us there allowing us to care about the girl herself. Those who adored her and her music will have a good cry, but at the end, they will be able to attain closure- at last!
The film did well at the box office, but is in far too few screens. The real tests will be those in the film industry. I anticipate that this indie film will see some awards this year, including quite possible, the Oscar as best documentary. For her memory, I hope this is the case! Let her live in our hearts forever!