December 17, 2015 at 7:34 am | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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◊ ½

Well, if there is any joy in flying anywhere, it is in my ability to catch up on a couple of films that came and went from theaters before I saw them. Fortunately, I am not confined by whatever edited version of a major movie the airline feels like showing (remember those days?). With Kindle in hand, I watched this film and the next one I will be reviewing. What a poignant and deeply sad documentary this was. As most would agree, Amy Winehouse was a breathtaking talent, whose death of alcohol related causes at 27 surprised almost no one. The real power of this documentary was in showing how inevitable that outcome was. For a person who so clearly never liked being in front of the camera (she even looked uncomfortable in home movies), it’s astonishing how much of her whole life appears to have been captured on film. In fact, there is so much footage that, for over two hours, Amy is almost never off film. The vast majority of the interviews, even of famous people, are done as voice overs of images of Amy, as though the film makers had so much footage, they couldn’t figure out how to use it all. As a result, the audience sees her self destructive tendencies surface early. Long before fame was even on the horizon, Amy was a fragile soul who sought aliveness in excess. She seemed to want the edge, even when she hated what it did to her. It did not help that the women in her life (including her mother) were passive participants who shook their heads and fretted but never stood up and that the men (including her father) all used her for personal gain. Nobody set the limits that Amy was so desperately seeking, that she even said at one point she was seeking. So she spiraled. And it’s all caught on film. Everything in this documentary has the feel of watching an impending car crash in slow motion. There’s a desperate anxiety as it builds toward the inevitable and, at over two hours, that’s a lot of build up. In fact, I think the same range of emotions could have been captured and the story told with 30 minutes shaved off. It’s moving and it’s sad but it’s a bit of a slog. It also feels creepy and voyeuristic. Toward the end, Amy was worn down by the relentless attention. This feels a bit like one more attempt to pry into her life, to own this very private woman. To, once again, succeed at her expense.


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