Amy, documentarian Asif Kapadia’s innovative biopic of singer-songwriter is one of the most heart-felt and engaging movies of the year.
In a brilliant directorial choice, Amy opens with a call phone video of a birthday party. It’s a typically rowdy bunch of 14 year-old girls, and, when they sing “Happy Birthday”, the song is taken over and finished spectacularly by one of the girls, who turns out to be the young Amy Winehouse. It shows us a regular girl in a moment of unaffected joy and friendship, but a girl with monstrous talent.
In fact ALL we see in Amy is footage of Amy. Her family and friends were devoted to home movies and cell phone video, resulting in a massive trove of candid video of Amy Winehouse and an especially rich palette for Kapadia.
We have a ringside seat for Amy’s artistic rise and her demise, fueled by bulimia and substance addiction. In a tragically startling sequence, her eyes signal the moment when her abuse of alcohol and pot gave way to crack and heroin.
We also see when she becomes the object of tabloid obsession. It’s hard enough for an addict to get clean, but it’s nigh impossible while being when harassed by the merciless paparazzi.
Amy makes us think about using a celebrity’s disease as a source of amusement – mocking the behaviorally unhealthy for our sport. Some people act like jerks because they are jerks – others because they are sick. Winehouse was cruelly painted as a brat, but she was really suffering through a spiral of despair.
The Amy Winehouse story is a tragic one, but Amy is very watchable because Amy herself was very funny and sharply witty. As maddening as it was for those who shared her journey, it was also fun, from all reports. Everyone who watches Amy will like Amy, making her fate all the more tragic. It’s available to rent on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.