Monday, July 20, 2015

Movie Review #284: "Amy" (2015)

Director: Asif Kapadia
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
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A look into the life and career of singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse, as well as her struggles with love, fame, and substance abuse that led her to her tragic fate. 
"Life teaches you to live, if you can live long enough."
Most of us will recognize the name Amy Winehouse, and if it isn't familiar to you, go to YouTube right now and listen to some of her songs. We will wait. She was an immensely talented singer that dealt with many personal demons all while deeply entrenched in the public eye. I have always been an Amy Winehouse fan. "She was a very old soul in a very young body," as one of her friends described in this documentary. She was one of the best musicians of at least my lifetime and it is a shame her life ended so tragically when she was just 27 years old.

"Amy" takes a look at her life, beginning when she started singing as a jazz musician. A humble British girl whose issues started when her parents got divorced when she was a teenager, she spent the beginning of her singing career in lounges and smaller, more intimate venues, and that's the way she liked it. She never wanted to become famous, to get as huge as she did. Behind the scenes videos show her talents early on, mean-mugging for the camera, but having a powerful enough vibrato that would make everyone else on camera stop singing and just listen to her. Director Asif Kapadia takes audiences on a journey through Amy's life and her rise to fame through the use of behind-the-scenes home videos, concert footage, previous documentary footage, as well as interviews and other types of media to tell her story. We learn about Amy, the person, and what drove her musically. We hear from friends and family only through voice overs, never seeing them on screen unless they are in video clips with her, and we hear about the events of her short life juxtaposed against the lyrics from her songs. This allows us to fully understand the exact circumstances which lead her to pour her heart and feelings onto the page and into her music. This documentary shows that Amy had a true passion for the art of music and that she wasn't interested in fame, though fame came to her anyway, much to her chagrin. Kapadia delves into her love life, too, including her tormented relationship with Blake Fielder, her ex-husband, and how toxic their marriage was for both of them. They were both heavy into narcotics and he is the one who turned Winehouse on to hardcore drugs like crack cocaine and heroin. Fielder actually offers up some commentary for this film, which is absolutely surprising considering it doesn't show him in a positive light.

I truly feel she was not done showing the world her music, she was not done giving the world her soul. I can remember the day she died, being quite broken up about it, but also having mixed feelings when taking a step back, too. It's hard when any person, musician, actor, or otherwise, begins down a dark, destructive path of overusing drugs, or alcohol, or in this case, both, but when they don't know when to stop and it causes more harm than good, some brush it off as "they did it to themselves." I knew there would be those types of people out there immediately after it was discovered how she died, but Amy Winehouse was not a saint. In fact, she'd probably be the first to tell you she wasn't. She had her demons, yes, but this does not diminish the incredible voice she had, and the soul she put into her records while she was on this planet. It does not lessen the gift she gave those of us willing to hear it. When some people think of her, they will remember her problems with drugs and alcohol, bad relationships, and a slew of missteps, all of which flooded the media until and even directly after her death. Us personally? We will remember her unbelievable voice and now, we can think about this documentary which personalizes her to even the smallest, most intimate detail. Unfortunately, it was too late for her to get help by the time she passed away, but she is, and will continue to be, a sorely missed musician.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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