Like millions of casual fans around the world, I was well aware of Amy Winehouse’s infectious throwback radio hit “Rehab,” in 2008, and her very public burnout and tragic death in 2011, but that was the extent of my knowledge.
After years of alcohol and drug abuse, along with international critical and fan acclaim, Winehouse was pronounced dead at 27. The sad news made the headlines for a few days, and that was that.
I wasn’t at all aware of her South London upbringing, her extraordinary skill as a jazz singer and songwriter, of her close ties to friends and family, her Jewish heritage and, in essence her untold story.
Produced by Universal Music and directed by Asif Kapadia, the biopic “Amy” follows the undulating highs and lows of this remarkable talent. In an age where every cellphone is a high-def video camera, an unbelievable amount of footage was located and edited into the chronological story of Amy Winehouse, told mostly by Winehouse herself.
We meet her before she was star and at every point up and down her career. We’re in her car, her house, backstage, on vacation, at rehab, as if people were purposely documenting her life for some later retelling. We suffer with her through bulimia, drug addiction and failed relationships; most all of it documented through cellphone footage.
The movie runs long, some two hours and eight minutes, and might have been better served cutting 20 minutes somewhere along the way, but generally this is a well-told, emotional story, and has forever changed my impression of who I thought Winehouse was, and will always be, posthumously.
What do those stars mean?
* Really, really, really bad. Don’t bother.
** Pretty bad, with one or more redeeming scenes.
*** Pretty good, but maybe not great, worth seeing for most
**** Really great, a winning combination of story, casting, and directing
***** The rarest gem, an all-around perfect motion picture