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Film Review: 'Amy'

The new documentary "Amy" explores the rise and fall of musical genius Amy Winehouse.

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  • | 4:13 p.m. July 11, 2015
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The new documentary "Amy" explores the rise and fall of musical genius Amy Winehouse. In 2011 she tragically died at the young age of 27. Director Asif Kapadia chooses not to dwell on her infamous last months, but rather tell the whole story of an extremely talented woman who lost her way.

Through never before seen home videos, archival footage and interviews with those closest to Amy, we glean vast insight into this remarkable woman's journey. The film opens as the cat-eyed crooner belts out "Moon River" as you've never heard it before. The richness of her voice is startling. We see Amy in her teens being described as "an old soul in a very young body." During that time her love of jazz evolved into profound and prolific songwriting. 

Amy didn't have great expectations but her artistic abilities made it all but impossible to avoid becoming famous. She even admitted "being embarrassed by success." The level at which she achieved it became difficult for her to accept. Amy turned to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms as the downward spiral commenced.

Her most famous song, "Rehab," ironically, was about not seeking it. Her father, Mitch, who's mentioned in the lyrics, refused to believe Amy had a problem in that he was more concerned with fame ..."no, no, no." Another toxic influence in her life, ex-husband Blake Fielder, became Amy's greatest enabler. With his help she'd gone from alcohol to cocain, crack and heroin. The dye was cast.

One of the saddest depictions in the film is Amy's appearance on Jay Leno's Tonight Show as he praises her performance while she's on top. As she slips into addiction, he makes crude jokes in regards to her descent during opening monologues. Thankfully, Kapadia manages to humanize Amy's legacy without sugar-coating it, in an honest and sympathetic manner. We're able to see her as the brilliant songwriter and performer that she truly was through his lens and extensive research.

Amy Winehouse's life was a blizzard of sadness punctuated by great moments. Her final recording was a collaboration with her idol Tony Bennett, singing the classic "Body and Soul." That session is included in the film and speaks volumes about Winehouse. As Bennett observes, "This one's got it." In the end Amy's heart gave out, but it will forever live in her soulful music.


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