Jul. 20, 2015

"Amy": Quick Movie Review

Commentary By Marc Platt

"Amy" is an extremely well-done documentary about an extraordinarily talented young woman whose life was ripped apart by her addiction to drugs, alcohol and love. Amy Winehouse had a very short life that was marred by control issues with lovers and family members, as well as the demands of an entertainment industry that insists on tearing its stars down after building them up. Amy Winehouse was more than just a singer, she was a unique pop and jazz singer. She was one of the great ones as Tony Bennett so eloquently stated in this movie.

The film's director Asif Kapadia had access to Amy Winehouse's family and collaborators, allowing us to take a fascinating peek into her childhood and dysfunctional upbringing. Her parents divorce was an event that would haunt Winehouse throughout her lifetime and that is very evident in this documentary.

Kapadia borrowed the same formulaic techniques that made VH1 so popular with their 'Behind The Music' TV series so many years back. We see Amy's good, bad and ugly sides throughout the film. We KNOW how her story will end, but we are riveted to the train wreck because of the crafty way Kapadia tells the story, using her own words, her brilliant lyrics and the words of her friends, family and professional associates in the unfolding drama.

The music sounds refreshingly honest in its development and the scene of her singing her monumental "Back to Black" track in the studio is stunning. The only reason that footage exists is because Matt Rogers happened to be filming his friends The Dap Kings who were there in the studio at the time. The Dap Kings would be instrumental in the sound of Winehouse's "Back to Black" CD. Rogers happened to be there for the vocal recording and captured it on film. This remarkable film footage as the absolute highlight of this movie.

As a music nerd, I would have appreciated more explanation about her creative process with producer and co-writer Mark Ronson and the Brooklyn-based Dap-Kings band who helped them actually create the sound of "Rehab" and other songs that would blow the doors off the music world and make Amy Winehouse a virtual prisoner of her own fame. That is the part of the story Asif Kapadia decided not to explore in this film. There is plenty of coverage of other collaborators in the context of "The Story." The minimal references of The Dap Kings and Mark Ronson's instrumental contributions as major collaborators is missing from this documentary. They were  integral players in catapulting Amy Winehouse from United Kingdom rising star-to-the-worldwide sensation she became.

Regardless, I loved the film and admire the way Kapadia used grainy film of  Winehouse's own performances and her haunting hand-written lyrics on the screen to tell the story of her young life and eventual death due to substance abuse.

This is a story that has been played over and over again with youthful and talented artists like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain all of whom were also 27-years-old when they met their demises.