UPDATED (7/10/15):

A week ago we reviewed Amy, the new documentary on Amy Winehouse.  (Our review appears below).  As a follow up on how the film is doing, we can add this.

Amy has now scored the biggest ever opening for a British documentary at the U.K. box office.  With that, posthumously, Amy Winehouse has stormed back into the British music charts.  Back to Black (her 2006 album), which has already sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, has now landed back in the top 40 in the 22nd spot, according the U.K. Official Charts Company.  Additionally, Frank (Amy’s 2003 debut record) had reentered the album charts in the 50th spot.
Amy has so far had a limited simultaneous release in the U.S., opening in six theaters in New York and Los Angeles.  U.S. distributor A24films is taking the film nationwide this weekend (July 10), while it will also expand in the U.K. from 133 cinemas to more than 200.



Our original blog from 7/3/15 starts here:

Today, July 3, 2015, marks the date for the release of Amy which is a documentary which tracks the life and career of Amy Winehouse from her rise to fame all the way to her tragic demise.  (July 3 UK release and July 10 worldwide; Altitude Film Distribution).  Directed by British filmaker Asif Kapadia, the film explores the plight of celebrity life and addiction and how Winehouse–who was fragile from her troubled upbringing among other troubling issues–tried to balance the two.  Unfortunately, Winehouse died when she was only 27.  She died in July of 2011.


Admittedly, the film portrays Winehouse as a disheveled and inebriated performer who struggled much of her career and was often a punch line in gossip circles as well as being a favorite target for paparazzi. Nevertheless, Winehouse’s contributions cannot be overlooked.  For example, she arguably paved the way for American acceptance of throwback soul crooners Adele and Sam Smith and Winehouse’s producer, Mark Ronson, might not have reached the same heights with this year’s chart-topping Bruno Mars collaboration, Uptown Funk, without his experiences with Winehouse.   (Ronson would later say of Winehouse, that working with her “was inspiring, because when you work with someone that great, you suddenly want to be better. In every way, it put me on the map. Take that album [Back To Black (2006)] away, and you and I would definitely not be talking right now.”).

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The film starts with a 14 year-old Winehouse singing along with a long-time friend at a birthday party captured at a home in 1998. The rest of the film shows the songwriter’s shortened life from her early years when she was a child, to her music career up and through her commercial success via her debut album Frank (2003).  Also covered were Winehouse’s troubled relationships as well as her struggles with bulimia nervosa. Ultimately, the film covers her controversial media attention and her downfall to drug and alcohol addiction. You also get to hear from Winehouse herself who talks about her early influences and how she felt about fame, love and her music career.

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Much of the film’s material comes from Kapadia’s hard work in conducting many interviews with friends and family.  Kapadia did a formidable job in telling a very sad story of a great performer who, like many others before her, were lost too soon.

Critical acclaim for the film has largely been positive.  For example, Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 100% rating based on 17 reviews.  However, not all are a fan of the film.  For example, Reg Traviss (Winehouse’s boyfriend at the time of her death) criticized Amy as being “in my opinion * * * a slur upon her.”

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In the end, I can only hope that Amy sends a message for some who might be in similar situations, on a personal level that is.  Although Amy is an interesting, and unfortunate look at musical celebrity when it meets with its greatest achilles heel; substance/alcohol abuse and, personal struggles, there is a real life lesson of a girl crying for help.  In the end, we are left wondering what would have happened if that lifeboat would have arrived on time?  Consider this.  In the film we are offered a rare look at how Winehouse created music.  One of those instances was when she dated an older man who largely inspired Frank.  In one scene the following lyrics flash on the screen as almost a grim call to arms for her then partner:

“You should be stronger than me/ You’ve been here seven years longer than me/ Don’t you know you supposed to be the man/ Not pale in comparison to who you think I am.”

Also consider this.  On the track Rehab Winehouse sings: “I ain’t got the time, and my daddy thinks I’m fine.” Indeed, in Amy we hear her father telling her she didn’t have to get treatment if she didn’t want to.  (In giving equal time,  Traviss has disputed the film’s characterization of Winehouse’s relationship with her father as well.  Traviss has said, “Amy had a very close and very warm relationship with her father; they were like both father and daughter and like best friends, but the documentary goes out of its way to portray their relationship as hollow and problematic. . . .”).

The unfortunate reality of Amy is that as the material grew darker it became more compelling.  The “show” became more interesting and deserving of attention, at least to some.  Yet, was anyone paying attention to what was happening around the creativity, the emotion, and, the train wrecks?  Was anyone watching the flank for life’s impending attack?  An onslaught that again, came to soon.  My point is that Amy shows us that there are consequences for everything. Even creative genius.  The question is was it really worth a young lady’s life?







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