The riveting documentary “Amy” (in theaters nationwide July 10) presents a layered, complex portrait of the iconic and troubled artist — a film that depicts her as a force of nature, a bigger-than-life personality and a fragile woman living on the edge.
In short: Archival footage and interviews with her friends, colleagues and loved ones tell the story of Amy Winehouse’s meteoric rise to fame and her doomed spiral into drugs and alcohol. (watch the trailer)
Passive music fans know the name and perhaps a few of her songs – but the general public most likely knows Amy Winehouse due to her very public battle with addiction and her untimely (but not altogether surprising) death. This documentary offers a personal and intimate look at Winehouse as an artist, a friend, a girl in love, a woman unprepared for sudden international fame and an addict escaping reality.
What sets “Amy” apart from so many other retrospective biographical documentaries is this film allows Winehouse to tell her story mainly through her own words. This is a beautifully edited work that captures Winehouse in her most vulnerable, audacious, broken and joyful moments via never-before-seen archival footage. “Amy” vibrantly brings the soulful singer back to life, allowing audiences to be reintroduced to a true artistic genius — which also makes her slow, but unrelenting, downward spiral all the more tragic to watch unfold.
“Amy” swings between two tones. It’s a celebration of a gifted and sincere artist who channeled her inner turmoil into poetic works of art. But this is also a slow-motion tragic disaster — one where everyone knows how the story ultimately ends, yet, it also urges the audience to futilely hope someone/anyone in Winehouse’s inner circle could do anything to save the troubled singer’s life. This documentary is absolutely effective in its ability to evoke the innocence of Winehouse’s early naivete and her later lamenting of the price of fame.
It is worth noting, however, “Amy” could represent everything the singer resented. The film says, in no uncertain terms, that Winehouse did not appreciate the lack of privacy inflicted upon her by the paparazzi – and even goes as far as claiming she would have forfeited all her fame for anonymity. But much of this film’s footage was only possible due to the voyeuristic nature of the media, which the film itself argues was a contributing factor to Winehouse’s daily stress.
Final verdict: “Amy” is a brilliant work of editing and storytelling through archival footage that creates a textured portrait of a very complex figure in music history.
“Amy” opens in theaters nationwide July 10. This documentary is rated R for language and drug material.