Amy – film review by S. Guttman

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“Amy” is an excellent documentary on the short life of Amy Winehouse. Tony Bennett ranks Amy’s abilities as a jazz singer with those of Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Holliday. I knew from her two albums, salve particularly the Grammy award winning “Black to Black”, that Amy’s voice was unique. I also knew she drank and drugged herself to an early death at 27, a 21st century rendering of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. What I didn’t know was how thoroughly her lyrics in songs such as “Rehab” were autobiographical. Director Asif Kapadia provides us with an autobiographical alignment by way of film clips of her self-destruction, with performance sequences as her lyrics appear on screen. We follow Amy’s life from her “Happy Birthday” at age 14 to her death in 2011. The callous destructiveness of the paparazzi is fully exposed. Kapadia explores Amy’s relationship with her father and lays her ultimate downfall in his lap. As it turns out, “Rehab” lyrics about her father telling her she didn’t need rehab were true. Whether Amy’s decision not to enter rehab following her first album and prior to mega stardom was the critical factor in her early death – a serious charge that cannot at this point be proved – is questionable, but I think a Whitney Houston analogy would have been the probable outcome had she received treatment – live longer but ultimately succumb to drug addiction. Amy Winehouse will be remembered for her astonishing musical contributions. The 128 minute film explores her short but spectacular life. One of the few touching moments are her recording scenes with Tony Bennett toward the end of the film. The sadness that her life took on is a focus of the scenes from her final mega concert in Serbia. Kapadia and editor Chris King present both the glory and the misery of stardom, and what can happen when one makes poor choices in selecting friends. At the end, you’re left with the thought that perhaps if Amy had remained connected to her two 14 year old “Happy Birthday” childhood friends, she might still be with us.

Steven Guttman

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