By Veronica Chavez
Before she scatted and sang her way into fame, before she won six Grammys, and before Tony Bennett called her one of the best contemporary jazz vocalists, Amy Winehouse was just a young girl who wanted to fill a void she felt existed in the music industry.
The new documentary on the artist, Amy, portrays how Winehouse grew up listening to soulful singers such as Carole King and Ella Fitzgerald. As a teenager, she felt there was no modern artist of the same caliber featured on the radio, which influenced her to start writing and singing music of her own.
Twenty minutes into the documentary and still no mention of her parents, it felt as though Winehouse spent her adolescent years more with record executives and friends than her own family.
With a place of her own, Winehouse was able to “smoke weed and write all day,” something she had apparently wanted from the day she started making music.
Despite the great deal of freedom she had at that point, Winehouse was still able to keep matters under control, and produce new music consistently.
The film, as expected, contains rare archival footage of the singer, allowing viewers to get a closer and more intimate look at her. There’s disheveled Winehouse on a road trip hiding from the camera behind a pillowcase, Winehouse in the bathroom before a set tweaking her famous winged eyeliner (then peering into the camera inquiring the filmmaker whether she looks pretty), and of course, Winehouse grinning endearingly with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
As an avid fan of the singer, I enjoyed watching these snippets of her life. Even more so, I loved seeing her interview clips. Witnessing Winehouse talk to the media offers viewers the chance to truly realize how genuine the singer was.
She was witty and brutally honest. She can be seen wearing the same outfit to more than one event. With the way she smacks her lips and rolls her eyes in Amy, it seems like the singer didn’t even care about a camera’s presence. I could hear the theater’s audience laughing at her antics, posthumously.
Intertwined with these lovable moments are some of the unattractive parts the media had showcased frequently during her career: the alcohol, the drugs, and the eating disorder. As I predicted, watching her downfall was heartbreaking and infuriating–especially considering the neglect her parents exhibited which seemingly influenced the singer’s shocking demise at 27 years old.
Despite the fact that Amy leaves viewers with the feeling that more could have been done to save Winehouse, the film gives the world a loving and exquisitely done homage to the now-iconic artist.