A star is born and then she self-destructs. Amy is the utterly tragic tale of singer Amy Winehouse, who was so full of talent and entirely unprepared or more likely incapable of dealing with the fame that came with her gifts. It is yet another story of addiction and greed and media frenzy killing a young performer. This devastating documentary is like the proverbial train wreck. You know what is going to happen, and you can’t stop it, but you can’t look away.
The filmmakers were very fortunate that Amy and her friends and family LOVED to document her all the time, and that they were delusional enough to think that they would come off well, given their roles in her life and death. They handed over video of all aspects of her short life, from her teenage days being goofy and playing around with her friends, to meeting the man who would be her manager and introduce her to the music biz, to her destructive/passionate relationship with (husband) Blake Fielder-Civil who encouraged her drug use, and even her fame-whore of a father who in fact did keep her from going to rehab. (I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine…) The film is a pretty linear telling of her descent. You meet her as she is getting into the biz, and she wants to be a jazz singer, and damn! That girl could sing. But when she crosses over with just her second album, and she becomes an international star with all the expectations that that lays upon her, she simply can’t handle it, and there is no one really looking out for her. So she gets drunk a lot and does all sorts of drugs, and since the media loves a good star falling down story, they hound her, which just makes her use even more. The scenes where the paparazzi are camped outside her door and the camera walks the gauntlet to get in a car give you an amazing feel for what she was going through every single time she wanted to leave her house.
What is so heartbreaking is that you get to watch her sing A LOT and you see that she loves it and she is amazing. She poured out her heart and soul in her songs, and the filmmaker was smart to subtitle them so you see exactly what she was going through as she sang. Tony Bennett, who appears in the film as they record a song for his Duets II album, put her in the same category as Ella Fitzgerald or Billy Holliday, one of the great jazz singers, and it is very telling when he says that jazz singers prefer a small audience and she agrees. It is what she should have done, but the star machine wouldn’t allow it. Amy is very well done documentary, though there are a few things I couldn’t understand (nothing big, just the accents and why her hubby went to prison). It is one of those movies that makes you so sad for what might have been. See it, preferably in a theater with a great sound system.