Directed by Asif Kapadia
Starring: Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, Mitch Winehouse
A couple of months ago, I was tooling around on Facebook and saw a trailer for a documentary… an Amy Winehouse documentary. I flipped out! For those of you who don’t know me, Amy Winehouse is one of my all time favorite artists. On the day of her death, the levels of mourning were only surpassed by Michael Jackon’s death. THAT’S how much I love her. My songwriting style can be vastly attributed to Amy. She has a raw poetic quality to her writing that few could ever touch. Art literally imitated life for her. For example in “Rehab,” she says, “They tried to make me go to Rehab, but I said, no, no, no. Yes, I’ve been black but when I come back, you will know know know. I ain’t got the time, and if my Daddy thinks I’m fine.” While Rehab did become a metaphor for a broken heart after an ended love affair, she was most certainly asked to go to rehab before recording her smash album Back to Black and her father did indeed say that she was “fine” not to go. It’s very rare that we get poetic perfection like this.
The documentary itself, directed by Asif Kapadia, tries hard enough to tell her story, but never finds solid footing. Kapadia was lucky enough to get his hands on loads of home videos of Ms. Winehouse, but they are so shaky with very few grounded, good quality shots that I felt ill sometimes, feeling like I did when I saw The Blair Witch Project for the first time. Instead of sitting everyone down for interviews and having the regular talking head shot, Kapadia opts for all voice overs while showing video of the person talking. A neat artistic choice, but again, made me feel super uneasy, as it never felt grounded hearing a voice coming from the person moving their lips.
And unlike Amy’s life which ended far too soon, I felt like Kapadia’s film went on far too long. There was at LEAST 30 minutes that could have been cut from the over 2 hour long film.
I will say, though, that the frayed edges of the film were very befitting to Amy’s story. I suppose if Kapadia were trying to make us all feel Amy’s pain in the frantic whirlwind that was her life, he succeeded. There were times when the uncomfortableness of her life was palpable. For example, when the photogs hounded Amy in a strobe light wall around her, caging her in her own Hell, I wanted to crawl out of my seat and my skin.
In the film, some previously unreleased tracks were played. They were a breath of fresh air and so incredible to hear. It truly tugs at my heart strings to hear what could have been with this magical artist. But the thing that enrages me the most about this film is the way that her father is painted. I have a sneaking suspicion that Amy’s father, Mitch, gave a lot of the home footage, and the life rights to Amy, which is why the man doesn’t come out smelling like yesterday’s garbage. This is the same man who left Amy when she was a child and came back into her life when he sniffed out some money for himself. At the height of her fame and illnesses, he acted as only a “Yes Man” and a leech, still asking her to tour while she clearly needed real medical attention for her drug abuse and bulemia.
This wasn’t the best Music Doc that I’ve ever seen, but I do appreciate Kapadia’s attempt to create something real and raw to give tribute to Ms. Winehouse’s incredible life and career. Should be a good watch on Netflix, but I’m not running back to the theater to see this any time soon again.