My wife, daughter and I went to go see the Amy Winehouse biopic Amy, directed by Asif Kapadia last night. The three of us can’t quit talking about it.
It’s a unique experience in that you go into the documentary knowing what is going to happen. Sadly, Amy Winehouse dies at the age of 27 on July 23, 2011. Still, as a fan of Amy’s music and career you go into the film hoping for answers to a single question: why?
Why would Amy Winehouse, a musician just starting her career, full of talent, beloved by so many with all of the money and opportunities in the world throw it away on drugs and alcohol?
Is it the “same old rock ‘n roll” story where you have to live that life? After all, so many have ended up the same way.
Was it a death wish? From an outsiders perspective seemingly, that might have been what was happening. While I’ve always been a fan of her music, I can’t say I followed Amy beyond what the causal fan would know. Unfortunately, near the end of her life she was in the new a lot and it was all negative. It looked like she was on a downward slide with no desire to change her ways until her fate was sealed as we witnessed on that summer day in 2011.
As you watch this film, you quickly realize it was a false hope to get an answer to “why did this happen” with Amy Winehouse. In reality, director Asif Kapadia couldn’t provide this for the audience. After all, this would have only been something Amy herself could have answered.
What I liked about Kapadia’s film is the fact that even though the burning question of “why?” isn’t answered, the question of “how?” is greatly cleared up. You see the influences in Amy’s life and you see how it may have led her down the path she went, even when you don’t fully understand why she would have done it.
What really made it so powerful was the fact she’s never painted as a “victim” in the film. These are choices she made. For those of us who haven’t made them it’s hard to comprehend given the tremendous upside of everything Amy had to live for, but you gain insight into where it went wrong.
All of this is very difficult to watch, mind you. Even though you know what’s going to happen, you want the end to be very different. You do gain insight into the woman herself and you find out it wasn’t the same old rock ‘n roll story. This wasn’t a person on a lifetime downward trajectory with a death wish. The butt of late night TV jokes.
Amy Winehouse was a real person with real problems many inside and outside the entertainment industry experience. She wasn’t always this zombie-like character you saw on newscasts during those last few years of her life. There were times when she was in recovery, coherent, vibrant and even an innocence about her.
Perhaps the greatest part of the whole film was the fact Kapadia gives you insight into the creation of Amy’s music. As a fan you always felt she wasn’t simply an artist writing songs, she was living it. Well, Kapadia takes you through the process as you go through her life and then splices of her singing about those experiences are interwoven throughout the film.
Overall, a fantastic film. Worthy of seeing whether or not you are a fan of Amy Winehouse’s music.