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Reviewed on 12/4/2015
Some of the best musicians, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, have died way too early at the age of 27. Add the name Amy Winehouse to that list. Tony Bennett, who Amy idolizes and performs a duet with him on a recording, is quoted in the film as saying "life teaches you how to live it, if you live long enough." How profound. I can surely relate to that. Listen to those sagacious words.
Early in the documentary Amy tells someone that she really doesn't want to be famous because she doesn't think she can handle it. But, with that voice she was destined to be a star. Think of Sarah Vaughn doing Ella Fitzgerald or vice versa. Who cares if you can't understand a word. It literally is a soulful sound. Fortunately, for jazz fans, she grew up listening to Thelonius Monk among other jazz greats. Once she establishes her reputation she is able to assemble a talented group as backup. Eventually touring does her in. One of her hits is a song called "Rehab," which she definitely knows a lot about. Unfortunately, she is beyond help. It seems as though she is doomed to die early.
Director Asif Kapadia successfully tells her life story by editing the impressive collection of footage, with interviews of friends and family, along with an occasional aerial shot of London (one shot is mind blowing in that it begins at street level in front of a car on the street, then fluidly pulls back through a stone arch far back into the air). We first see Amy in a video shot by her best friend when she was a teen before starting a singing career. She is a healthy looking teen. Normal build, maybe even leaning to be a little overweight. Quite buxom. After years of performing on the road, we see her shortly before her death in Africa in rehab. She is skinny as a rail. The signs are there that she is unhealthy; in fact, her doctor is quoted as telling her she could easily kill herself the next time she drinks too much. Another sad ending to an incredibly gifted musical talent.