Movie Review: A24's AMY


Directed By: Asif Kapadia
Produced By: James Gay-Rees
Release Date: July 3, 2015 (NY & LA), July 10, 2015 (Nationwide)
Running Time: 128 minutes
Rating: R for language and drug material

Official Sites: Web | Facebook
From BAFTA Award-winning director Asif Kapadia (SENNA), AMY tells the incredible story of six-time Grammy-winner Amy Winehouse – in her own words. Featuring extensive unseen archival footage and previously unheard tracks, this strikingly modern, moving and vital film shines a light on the world we live in, in a way that very few can.

A once-in-a-generation talent, Amy Winehouse was a musician that captured the world’s attention. A pure jazz artist in the most authentic sense – she wrote and sung from the heart using her musical gifts to analyze her own problems. The combination of her raw honesty and virtuosity resulted in some of the most unique and adored songs of the modern era.

But her massive success resulted in relentless and invasive media attention, which coupled with Amy’s troubled relationships and precarious lifestyle, saw her life tragically begin to unravel, resulting in her untimely death in July 2011 at the age of 27.

Amy a documentary based on the talented and tragic life of Amy Winehouse, a British music icon who died too young. This is a true documentary. As far as I could tell, none of the film was scripted. There are no actors. The film follows her rise to stardom and her brief life.

The film starts on a grainy piece of footage from Amy's youth. She is singing to the camera, and, basically being a teenager. It should be noted that when I write about a celebrity, I refer to them by their last name. I will say "Paccino" or "Witherspoon", or something of the like. I mean to imply respect. I don't know any of them. Amy Winehouse, I'm going to call Amy because after the film, I almost feel like I know her. And that is what is so moving about Amy. It will draw you in, introduce you to Amy (and her demons), and it will take her away. So, I'm calling her Amy.

As I was saying, the film starts with grainy camcorder footage from Amy's youth. There will be some grainy footage throughout the film. Don't let that bother you. It adds to the rawness of it. Amy wasn't being filmed for a documentary about her life, it just happens to be the digital age. There are cameras everywhere. Her life was captured by cell phone video, camcorder, backstage cameras or paparazzi lenses. All of it made the film, in varying degrees.

After a few snippets of Amy's youth, the film does the necessary job of introducing all of characters in Amy's life. You will meet her friends, her father, her ex-husband and celebrities who worked with Amy. Like a traditional fictional film, there are heroes and villains. You can decide where each of the characters fit.

Through the different characters, and through Amy's words, the film shows the many wrong turns she took. It seemed that every time she could have saved herself, she ran in the opposite direction. When she was alive, I didn't follow Amy much. It seemed like the only stories that made the news and the only images shown of her involved some self-destruction. I didn't want to see that. The film opened my mind as to the causes of her behavior.

It was very sad. Amy wasn't just a drug addict and an alcoholic, she was a wounded soul. And you will be able see it all, right up to her death, on the big screen.

I appreciated the intimacy. I appreciated that there was little narrative. I appreciated that no one told me who the heroes and who the villains were, so I could choose.

The music sounded wonderful in the theater. I had forgotten her wonderful sound. Largely, I had forgotten Amy. This film does a tasteful and respectable job of bring her back. I highly recommend it. If you ever loved her music, or if you used to tune her out as I did, you will still appreciate this compressing look at Amy. Don't take my word for it, rediscover Amy for yourself when it opens on July 10.

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