As raw as it is heartfelt, Amy the documentary tells the story of the late singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse. Best known for her 2006 crossover hit Rehab, Amy’s music exposed the ugly truths of addiction, in all its forms. The documentary's director Asif Kapadia goes beyond the media circus surrounding the late pop star to reveal the life of an English girl with soul.
Although Amy showed other aspects to her life, Kapadia did not shy away from Winehouse’s vices. As the documentary plays out, the viewer sees Amy transition from a lively, healthy looking girl to an emaciated shell of her former self within the span of a few years. The film follows her tumultuous relationship with her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil who many cite as the catalyst of her downfall. Aside from introducing her to hard drugs, Fielder-Civil struggled with self-mutilation. An already damaged Amy began to mimic his self-destructive habits. Amy’s obsessive tendencies didn’t end there. She struggled with bulimia throughout her early teens until her death.
The Fame Monster
Even if you weren’t all that familiar with her music, chances are you’ve seen at least one of the countless tabloid images of Amy Winehouse drunk and disheveled on a city sidewalk. Amy reveals that even other celebrities joined in mocking the troubled songstress. Everyone from Jay Leno to George Lopez made cringe-worthy jokes about Winehouse. Still, the most distressing part of Amy’s fame was the way it changed the people in her inner-circle. When Amy Winehouse attempted sobriety and escaped the flashing lights of paparazzi, her father Mitchell Winehouse brought the media to her front door. The film features footage of a visibly annoyed and disappointed Winehouse, scolding her father for having a camera crew in tow. Those closest to her, who should have had her best interest at heart, were part of the reason why she failed to improve.
Her Musical Genius
Winehouse’s over-the-top persona too often distracted from the beauty of her artistry as a vocalist and writer. Amy brings music to the forefront, with footage of early live performances and studio sessions. Song lyrics dance across the screen as Winehouse sings her woes during intimate shows.
We discover that Winehouse was a jazz nerd who played guitar, planned to eventually collaborate with rapper Mos Def and Roots drummer ?uestlove and geeked out over Tony Bennett. Perhaps the greatest revelation (albeit not surprising) is the origin of Rehab. Winehouse’s biggest commercial success was a quite literal diss towards her former manager who staged a failed intervention. Towards the film’s end, Winehouse’s frustration with performing old material was emphasized. By 2011, she was tired of performing Rehab and was ready to create new music. Viewers are left with a deep longing for what musical greatness Winehouse would have concocted if her demons had not gotten the best of her.
After watching Amy you'll want to have a jam session of your own in her honor. Here are my top picks, in no particular order: