Cast includes: Amy Winehouse, Yasiin Bey, Mark Ronson, Pete Doherty, Mitch Winehouse, Tony Bennett, Tyler James, Salaam Remi
Director: Asif Kapadia (The Warrior, Far North)
Genre: Documentary | Biography | Music (128 minutes)
Southgate, North London, 1998: Juliette and Lauren and their friend, Amy Winehouse, make a video of themselves celebrating a birthday. When Amy sings “Happy Birthday,” sounding like a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Sarah Vaughan, it’s obvious that she’s got budding star power. “I was just lucky I could sing… I never thought I’d end up being a singer,” Amy says. When she sang “Moon River” in the National Jazz competition and won, she came to the attention of a talent scout. When he learned that she liked to write poetry… “directly personal to me”… he helped her get a recording contract. All Amy wanted was to make enough money to get a flat in London with her friend Juliette. “I’m not a girl trying to be a star,” Amy says in her thick North London accent. “The more people see of me, the more they’ll realize is that I’m not good for anything but making music.”
All she wanted to do was be a songwriter and jazz singer in little clubs… nothing “poppy,” she says. Her musical influences were “the greats like Frank Sinatra… new music had nothing,” as far as she was concerned. Amy’s lyrics were raw and personal… she wrote about her feelings and her struggles… really holding nothing back. When her ill-fated relationship with Alex ended, audiences responded to “Stronger than Me.” When Blake broke it off, her album “Back in Black” was nominated for the 2007 Album of the Year. By this time everyone seemed to want a piece of Amy. As much as fans loved her, “they could be very cutting.” “Just leave me alone,” she said again and again, but that only made the British paparazzi more aggressive. Drinking really couldn’t numb the senses enough… “She could drink anyone under the table.” Drugs of all sorts became her crutch of choice. When her music producer wanted her to go to rehab, her father… now profiting hugely from his daughter’s success… told her she didn’t need to. She had a tour coming up he didn’t think she should cancel. Her song, “Rehab” won Best Contemporary Song and Song of the Year.
Amy is a modern-day, yet classic tragedy. The definition of a classic drama is a story that can only end one way… badly. From the first “Happy Birthday,” we can see ingredients of a tragedy. Amy was a girl who put everything out there, and she had the kind of talent and charisma that made people want more. When her parent’s separated Amy was 9 and saw as a rejection. She never learned to deal with rejection. Amy Winehouse was so talented that almost anyone could string together footage of her and make an interesting movie. But director Asif Kapadia did an amazing job of showing us what drove Amy down a tragic path. Tony Bennett, who performed with her, said, “Amy was the “truest jazz singer that ever lived.” Amy said, “If I could give it back just to walk down the street with no hassle, I would.” Amy’s short life was nothing if not painful, yet it was the pain combined with. In an era that favored “poppy” over jazz, fans couldn’t get enough of Amy. “All I’m good for is making tunes. Just leave me alone,” she pleaded.
4 popped kernels
Jazz singer Amy Winehouse put everything out there and paid the price for it
Rated: R (Language, Sexual Content, Drugs)
Gender Style: Bold
Distribution: Mainstream Limited Release
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism & Amateur Video
Nutshell: The life of Amy Winehouse