‘Amy’ a haunting cautionary tale
I wish we lived in a world where a documentary like Amy was shocking, where immensely talented people didn’t self-destruct with the help of the vultures and leeches that come with being a celebrity. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where the tragic downfall of a star like Amy Winehouse is just another in a long line of Behind the Music cautionary tales about the dangers of drugs and fame. What separates Amy from the cliche rock docs you see so often is that it doesn’t seek to wrap everything up in a nice, clean, made-for-TV package. It doesn’t flower up the story, rather shows us the stark reality of such a talented person’s demise, and leaves us reflecting on how society handles drug addiction and the insatiable hunger for celebrities.
Winehouse started out with so much potential, an immensely talented girl with a one-of-a-kind voice and penchant for jazz who seemed born to be a star. We watch her captivating the world with her unique sound on her debut album, Frank, and gaining huge critical and commercial success with Back to Black. We see her becoming a major celebrity and paparazzi target. We see her tumultuous relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil, and we watch her move from party girl to full-fledged drug addict while no one around her seems to make much effort to get her cleaned up. Most infuriatingly, we watch her parents seemingly ignore both her drug problem and issues with bulimia, either brushing the problems off entirely or insisting it’s Amy’s responsibility to help herself. To say that it’s frustrating is an understatement. Infuriating might be a better way to describe it, and the doc does an amazing job of conjuring those emotions in viewers by contrasting Winehouse’s incredible music with footage of her slipping down the slope of addiction. We all know the story ends with her death at the age of 27 in 2011, which makes every minute of Winehouse smiling, performing, recording, and achieving her dreams all the more heartbreaking.
Watching it, I couldn’t help but think of other stars who have experienced a similar fate. From Kurt Cobain to Whitney Houston to Michael Jackson, I can’t help but wonder why the hell this kind of thing is so commonplace. I look at this documentary and I just wonder why. Why didn’t anybody help her? Why did this have to happen to someone with so much potential? Why do we as a society keep letting this happen to our most talented entertainers? The film doesn’t offer us answers, but those lingering questions will haunt you long after the credits roll.
View the trailer here: