|The great jazz singer/songer writer Amy Winehouse|
The documentary starts out like probably many music videologs that trace the career of an emerging artist. It is impossible to see Amy Winehouse as anything but an extremely talented jazz vocalist who was born with talent not luck. She felt best playing in intimate jazz clubs with good musicians. She loved to write songs and was clearly one of the best singer/songwriter jazz vocalists of this century. Her exquisite voice, vocal range and phrasing hit notes with spot on accuracy and emotionally wrenching language, framing familiar episodes in life with an exactitude inspiring international introspection.
Winehouse’s new fans proclaimed their infatuation with that voice and those incredible lyrics. This is the same public that booed her off the stage at the end of her career for failing to sing and who even demanded their money back. It was pay back time for the public that felt they made her. Her refusal to perform in Belgrade can only be seen as an act of defiance and strength for no one listened to her when she said she didn't want to go. "Amy" updates the media picture of this outstanding vocalist and shows how she stood her ground and said no to a large concert she could no longer tolerate as a serious artist.
Given substantial room is Amy Winehouse's relationship with her husband Blake Fielder-Civil , a relationship characterized in the documentary as all consuming, temptuous and painful. Fielder-Civil introduced her to heroin and crack and Amy could not be separated from him until he was forcefully incarcerated and later divorced her. According to Fielder-Civil, she did not want the divorce and her signature was forged. By Amy's own admission the relationship was a drug.
Also given ample space is Winehouse's eclectic vintage fashion sense, heavy eyeliner, and her hairstyle inspired by a fusion of the 60's pop group "The Ronette's" and Brigitte Bardot.
At first we love our artists for the accord that they strike in our experience but as they become successful within the industry model, they become our slaves and wind up dolls. “Amy” well illustrates the modern myth of god/goddess destruction. The artist pulls the strings of our hearts and we become fickle and restless and lose interest waiting for the next sensation. The industry has of course created this fickleness, this throwaway artist society with mythological heroes and heroines, even when they are banished or doomed.
“Amy” makes one wonder how extraordinary it must be for any megastar to not succumb to drugs and alcohol. “Amy” indeed presents a horrifying picture of what success actually looks like, mirrored in the fearful faces of Amy Winehouse as she walks to fame and out of it in her short life. At first stunned at the ignorant questions she is asked as an artist she is later repulsed by the invasion of her privacy by the media.
Almost everyone is a player in this mediated gimmicry—even her father who brings photographers to St Lucia where she becomes drug free and chastises her when two "harmless" tourists asks for a photo with her and she is less than overjoyed. That one simple photo to her is equal to all the excesses she has suffered since she began winning awards and recognition. Jay Leno and David Lettermen ridicule her drug habit on national television but if they did that to someone with an illness other than addiction they would be shut down. Both are finally going anyway as spent fuel.
We wonder why someone so incredibly talented, such a beautiful unique creative and illuminating young woman can die before our eyes after an inevitable failed comeback as painful as the one planned by Michael Jackson. But the answers are all there in “Amy” of how this could be.
There are no particular culprits, since success is a cunning foe that is propelled by faceless greed and commerce. Artists whose careers are intertwined with commerce pay a heavy price. There is also the truth that Amy Winehouse even before she became famous was a substance abuser with food and alcohol. Her parents, in the documentary, seem clueless that alcoholism was just as important to tackle (though they disagree with how they are presented). Going to rehab, or not going to rehab as the song goes that became her signature song did not seem to sink below the goal just being clean and tackle the underlying issues behind her relapses.
Amy Winehouse was a beautiful soul and there are ample pictures in this brilliant documentary of her upbringing, her first songs with enchanting poetic images in her ever enlarging career prompted by public demand for more of her. And as the public demanded more of Amy, she began to disappear with increasing regularity. However, it is clear that it was not only a public sacrifice but her support system and her own ignorance of addiction that took her life, despite doctor's warnings. All this is evident in this powerful documentary.