What impressed me most was she was singing her truth, unselfconsciously, in a world where we’re all too guarded, posting on Instagram about our fabulous lives when the truth is so often we feel tortured and unsure, insecure.
Amy Winehouse was insecure. And she dealt with this by doing her best not to be too reliant on any one man, for fear he’d hurt her, the same way her dad hurt her mum.
Relationships… Does anybody stay in one place anymore? It seems the wealthy and educated stay together as a business deal and the rest of us are searching, judging and always wondering if there’s something better around the corner or whether the one who’s our heart’s desire will leave us first. Happened to me. And I’ve been forever untrusting since.
There was a hole in Amy’s heart that could never be filled. She was free, but too often empty.
The crime of this film is that it plays in the theatres. As if all of those who were fans of her music go out to see documentaries, as if we don’t live in a world of TV. If “Amy” premiered on television it’d be the talk of our nation, because it’s not only about fame, but the human condition. Somewhere, in between the clips and the music, is truth, a dirty one, the same one that has the paparazzi crowding around the name of the moment and abandoning it soon thereafter.
The weirdest thing is that Amy is so alive. We seem to only be aware of famous Amy, the one with the arm tattoos who kept falling down. But once upon a time she was a teenager, and there’s video of her. Seems that nothing is lost to posterity anymore. We all leave artifacts. And the loss of privacy is creepy, but to be able to sift through the ashes is fascinating.
Amy was on the fast track to nowhere. She was the antithesis of the American stars. She wasn’t sure if she wanted a career and she didn’t want to be world-famous. Then again, this is a movie, we’ll never know how she really felt.
She was a girl with friends who liked to get high. That’s why she moved out of her mother’s apartment, so she could smoke dope.
Amy was also extremely self-knowing. She said her mother was too easy on her, that’s why she was the way she was.
And she can certainly sing, but she’s told to write, about her life, and she does.
And that’s the heart of this movie, the songs. When they juxtapose the lyrics against the real life situations you’re touched. And you resonate. This is what music does best, reflect ourselves back upon us. But we seem to have lost our way these days. Who do we blame? The acts or the system? The acts want success, the system wants a return on its investment, and as a result everyone plays it safe.
Amy did not play it safe.
She was such an original. A sassy Jewish girl. She hid neither her identity nor her religion. When she leaves a phone message that she loves the recipient whether he returns her phone call or not, you’re touched. It’s so sweet and caring. Anything but manipulative, purely genuine.
Kind of like the look on her face when she wins the Grammy for Album of the Year. If it doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you’re inhuman. My eyes are welling up as I write this. She’s standing on a stage in the U.K. in the middle of the night, watching the telecast from Los Angeles, and when they call her name she’s stricken, she can only stare into space, stock still. It’s not that it’s a dream come true, rather a shock that little Amy Winehouse resonates with so many, that doing what she wanted to do, without compromise, she was recognized, she won.
And little she was. Bulimic. We see these stick-thin stars and become envious. The truth is they either don’t eat or throw up. In this case, the latter, all over the studio stall. You can only hide your demons for so long.
Credit the manager who refused to go along for the ride.
Credit Lucian Grainge for making her sign a contract stating she could not perform on the Grammy telecast unless she was sober.
But the truth is the system ate her up. Everybody gets paid only if Amy works. Lucian told her she had to follow up her initial album. Despite her protestations, her second manager, a promoter, kept her working live when she shouldn’t have, because that’s what promoters do, oftentimes all they know, booking gigs.
And the acts go along with it.
It killed Kurt Cobain and it killed Amy Winehouse. Both protested before their deaths, said they no longer wanted to play, but it was too late, their lives had been turned topsy-turvy, they couldn’t find their way back to where they once belonged.
But the truth is they never really belonged. They were off-kilter. Thin-skinned. Following an inner art they weren’t fully sure they possessed. Poseurs are boasters, confident, all-knowing. Legends are unsure.
So what we have here is a woman so talented, many won’t realize it until they watch this film. Yes, viewing “Amy” makes you a fan of its protagonist. Sure, I knew “Rehab,” but I’m a much bigger fan now, Amy just oozed talent, she was the best of us.
And the worst.
True artists are not like us. They lack discipline. Order. You might not blow all of your money if you were a superstar, but the truth is you could never become a superstar, it’s not in your DNA, you couldn’t take the risks. Amy never could have had an executive career, she’d be fired from the 7-11 because she couldn’t show up on time. All she could do was this. And play pool. And do drugs. All the things your parents tell you not to, but which made her her.
But while we’re living the straight and narrow, we yearn to jump the tracks. Which is why we bond not to the act with the biggest sponsorship or the most famous boyfriend but the one who goes their own way, who does it different, who doesn’t beg for our acceptance and therefore gets it.
You won’t understand a ton of the dialogue. Between the English accents and the archival footage I missed so much.
Which is why I’m gonna watch it again. And again. On my TV. On my iPad. I’ve got to soak it all up, marinate in something that was hiding in plain sight that this film brings to life.
We’ve become so inured to fake that we’ve given up on genuine. Every story about the music business is about money being made or lost. How superstars are cleaning up on the road or acts are being devastated by streaming payments. If you’re not in the industry, you’re avoiding it. That’s the problem with music, not the economics, but the art itself. As Adele proved, if you’ve got it, the people want it.
But we haven’t had much of that spirit here since 1999, when Napster opened the floodgates and allowed everybody to play, when the barrier to entry became so low that chaos ruled. The crime is that as much as she was a paragon of excellence, Amy Winehouse’s greatness was buried by the tsunami of crap coming down the pike.
But now this film will resuscitate her image. Now she will truly be a legend.
And it’s so sad she’s gone.
You know how the movie ends, but when it does, even though it’s foreshadowed, you can’t believe it. You almost expect Amy to come out smiling, laughing that she fooled us.
But she doesn’t.
Life is no laughing matter. It’s not easy to kill yourself, but it’s possible. And when you’re gone, it’s forever.
So, take a few risks, but not too many.
Learn from Amy Winehouse, but don’t try to be her.
Because the truth is the greats are doomed. Even if they’re alive, they’re oftentimes broke and unhappy.
But without them, without their beacon, life would not be worth living.
This is the most painful viewing experience you will have all year.
But rush to the theatre now to see “Amy.”
I haven’t felt this bad after a flick since the “Deer Hunter.”
But this is real.