It’s always a tragedy when people with such immense talent have their lives cut short. There is something known as the “27 Club” which is a list of prominent and very influential musicians all who died at the age of 27. The list includes, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison as well as others. The last person to join this unfortunate club was the incredibly talented and yet polarizing figure, Amy Winehouse. Winehouse is remembered as much for her big booming and soulful voice as she is for the tabloids she filled on a regular basis.
Amy’s personal life has been widely covered and criticized before and after her death. With many books and documentaries being put out by some who claimed to be close to her and others. This past year the best and most definitive film was released with the documentary, Amy. The films includes exclusive interviews with those truly close to her and hundreds of home video clips and phone calls, the film lets us see deep inside her and feel the pain and struggles she battled every single day.
The film is the work of the same team that put together the 2010 documentary about the ever popular and at times reckless, formula one driver, Ayrton Senna. Director Asif Kapadia brings the same kind of fierceness to Amy as he did to Senna. With home videos and recordings going back to when Amy was just 14 years old, we quickly get a deep look into her life and emotional makeup.
The film opens with footage at a birthday celebration for a friend of hers and shows the general goofiness that close friends have. Then as they begin singing an impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday, all of the sudden everyone stops singing to hear Amy finish off the song, and it’s at that moment when you see she was destined to be a star. The trouble with her inevitable stardom, is that she would become one of the most reluctant stars in a long time. Early on there is a clip from an interview Amy gave while she was just playing small jazz venues before being famous had ever crossed her mind. In that interview she is asked about becoming famous and being a star singer because of her talent. Her answer to the question was more telling than anyone could know, when she said, ” I don’t think I could handle being famous “.
The film chronicles her rise to stardom and every struggle she had because of it and the ones she already had that were exacerbated because of it. The movie is 2 hours and 8 minutes of archival footage with every new interview that has taken place only heard. The interviews range from childhood friends to her parents to her former husband Blake Fielder-Civil. Their thoughts and recollections are heartbreaking and loving and are laced with constant mourning.
Amy’s parents have been hugely critical of the film, saying that it only focuses on her troubles and that things weren’t as bad as they were portrayed. After hearing their criticism my only thought was, that they still refuse to see the problems as much now as they did then. During her most difficult times it appears that money, image and personal benefit seemed to be the main priorities.
Everyone has heard the late night jokes and every shot comedians took at her and her struggles. Everyone had the thoughts and comments about what a waste it had seemed she became. After watching the movie, my first thought was how callous and insensitive those jokes and comments were.
Fame has crippled some of the strongest and most talented people ever. Amy Winehouse was no different. Looking back on her talent, it is more than sad that there is only the small amount of recording that is left to be enjoyed. When it comes to great talent we can never get enough, but far too often there isn’t nearly enough to enjoy, this is one of those situations.