Much controversy and legal issues have surrounded the release of the Amy Winehouse documentary fIlm. At the beginning stages of production, Amy’s parents gave full consent to the project, allowing permission for the use of home video footage and original music. After watching the original edit of the film, Amy’s father, Mitch threatened legal action and contacted his solicitors. It was at this stage that the director, Asif Kapadia (Senna) had to produce a second (watered down) version as Mitch was furious that he had been ‘portrayed in a bad light’ and that the footage was ‘highly inaccurate’ and untrue.
It is a popular opinion within the music circle that many point the finger at Amy’s father for much of her problems. Mitch’s reaction makes you wonder exactly what the original edit of the film contained. What’s clear is that when Amy desperately needed to go to rehab, her father, who had the final say, believed it was not necessary (bearing in mind this was the time when she looked skeletal and was forgetting her lyrics on stage). When Amy was taken away to St Lucia to escape the media and asked personally for her father to join her, he showed up with a camera crew of his own to film a documentary about what it was like to be her father. When Amy didn’t want to perform at a string of gigs before her death, her father said she had no choice as too much money was involved and they were contractually obliged. The way he is depicted in the film definitely does not paint him in a good light. It’s true what everyone said when she was alive; why is no one taking responsibility? Why has no one taken action? It’s quite clear that this is entirely what Amy wanted; someone to take control. Her father uses the poor excuse that you can’t force someone to go to rehab. I’m pretty sure that if I had a child who was suffering from addiction I could easily find a way.
The film is a depiction of not only what drug and alcohol abuse can do to a vulnerable soul but how evil the consequences of fame are. ‘Amy’ is a wonderful portrayal of the character that we rarely saw in the press; a very funny, quick-witted, intelligent and vulnerable young woman who often seemed to be embarrassed by the fact she was successful. What’s clear is that she was a troubled soul from early on; she states herself that her father was rarely present as she grew up and began suffering from bulimia at the age of nine when her parents separated. From here began the slippery slope of self-destruction.
‘Amy’ comprises of just over two hours of home footage and narration form the people closest to her. I think it’s safe to say that in the end, it was the fame that killed her. There is an extremely uncomfortable scene towards the end of the film where Amy is attempting to walk down the street but is unable to do so as the swarm of paparazzi surround her like vultures, prodding and poking her and closing in on her from all directions. It’s ugly to watch. Intrusive, aggressive and suffocating, Amy’s final year was spent in a human goldfish bowl. I can’t imagine the isolation she must have felt.
Her bodyguard recalls the day before her death when she said to him; ’Boy, I can really sing! But I’d give it all back if I could just walk down the street with no hassle.’
When Amy was recovering on holiday after a brief stint in rehab, we see how the day after arriving, the press have checked into every single room in her hotel, and had somehow bugged the phones of all her closest friends and family. Their conversations were later printed in the press. These are the people who praise her for her successes, yet rip her to shreds for her pitfalls. Whatever the scenario, they are there waiting to share every inch of her private life with the world. Except, there’s no such thing as private anymore.
This film is important for several reasons. Not only does it show the dirty side of fame and the immense amount of pressure public figures (or victims) are under, but it shows that Amy Winehouse was a lyrical and musical genius. I don’t believe anyone specifically was to blame for her premature death, it seems that she had a destructive nature to begin with. This is a girl who was diagnosed from depression at a very young age. During a period of being sober, her best friend recalls being with Amy at the Grammy awards, moments after she won Best Album of the Year, and Amy solemnly states ‘This is so boring without drugs.’ It seems that Amy was a person whose extraordinary talent landed her in position she never anticipated and didn’t know how to handle. It was whilst watching this film that I realised, the people with the true talent don’t ask for the attention of the press. It’s sad that this is the price you have to pay for being born with a skill.
What makes this documentary worth watching is how Amy’s amazing character is so enchanting. If I’m honest, the film itself is not particularly good. If anything I found it quite tacky. The disgusting typeface that the lyrics appear in is really quite atrocious and anyone who knows anything about typography would agree that it was a horrendous choice. The way each word lights up is like something you would get at a dodgy karaoke booth. It cheapened her lyrics, ironically. The film ends with a clip of the guests at Amy’s funeral, as they cry and hug each other. Its devastating and incredibly sad to watch and I cant help but feel that it could have been followed by a happier piece of footage. No one wants to leave the cinema feeling as though they themselves need a drink.
There are three facts to this film; 1. Amy Winehouse was a genius. 2. Her death was premature. And 3. The press are vultures.