Amy Winehouse is someone whose music I – and I know I’m possibly in a minority – never really cared for. There were a couple of decent songs, such as Back To Black, and she could certainly carry a tune, but mostly, I just didn’t get it at all.
But then, similarly, I really enjoyed Mark Kermode’s BBC documentary about The Exorcist, yet much less so for the film, itself. However, following her early death at the age of 27, back in 2011, a documentary was made about her life and I was very curious to see what made her tick and see if it can shed any light on the phenomenon. That said, one early criticism came from her father, Mitch Winehouse, and after watching this, I can see why.
Her life story is told home video footage, gigs and TV appearances, starting in 2002, in East Finchley, and leading up to her death in July 23rd 2011, charting her surprisingly rapid rise to prominence, amidst the news that some record companies were signing unknown artists for £1/4m a time, whilst she speculates that she can’t handle the fame.
Alas, while I read a hell of a lot of good reviews for this, I guess you had to be a huge fan of her music because it just chronicles a young woman on a chronic path of destruction, told through soundbites of friends set amongst archive footage. gig and home video footage.
Towards the end, she had gigs where she’d forget the words – including a shambolic appearance in Belgrade, on June 18th 2011 – where she was way too drunk to do anything. It was meant to be the start of a 12-date European tour, but that was soon cancelled.
Amy Winehouse died aged 27, the cause of death cited as was alcohol poisoning, since she had 4-5 times the legal limit in her blood, but her body was ravaged for years with drink and drugs, as well as eating disorders.
At one point in this documentary, her father says that you can’t force someone to go into rehab if they don’t want to go. It’s also said that they had contractual obligations to performs at certain gigs, at times when she should really have dropped out of the limelight and attempted to recover. Based on that, it made me think they should’ve pulled out of those gigs and taken the financial hit, as well as confining her to an institution declaring her mentally unfit, since if they had, then she may still be alive today, and the film make things feel like a trainwreck that her family let happen, but…
Mitch Winehouse appeared on on Loose Women soon after the film came out, stating it depicts Amy in a lonely, downward spiral, whereas the family were actually *trying* to put her in for treatment. The comments about “Amy didn’t need to go to rehab” came from a point in 2005, and not when it was depicted as being said, later in her life. He also stated that anyone involved with her in the last 3 years of her life were not featured in the film, boyfriend Reg Traviss gave 8 hours of interviews, but isn’t shown, and Mitch, himself, gave 12 hours or so of interviews, but is only mentioned three times.
In addition, it does him down for appearing with a “reality TV crew” about his life. He countered he went every 2 weeks to St Lucia, taking a *film crew* to make a series about addiction within the family, and with Amy’s permission, and that it has helped a lot of people out since, hence the misrepresentation, in Amy, about being just about him. He’s in the process of making a new film about his daughter and reckoned that the first 45 minutes of Amy is worth watching, but beyond that it’s all questionable.
Note: This review is just for the film only.
Running time: 128 minutes
Format: 1.85:1 (Digital Cinema Package DCP)
Released: November 2nd 2015
Director: Asif Kapadia
Producer: James Gay-Rees
Music: Antonio Pinto
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.