Amy: Winehouse biopic is simply perpetuating the myth

Amy Winehouse

Amy’s opening minute is also its best.

In the stairway of a north London semi, a 14-year-old Amy Winehouse joins her friends in an impromptu performance of Happy Birthday To You, only to break from the pack and launch into a transcendent solo rendition of the song’s final line. It’s a flash of brilliance rooted in something otherwise ordinary, which – the film suggests – is also how Amy saw herself. “The more people see of me, the more they’ll realise that all I’m good for is making tunes,” she says later on. “So leave me alone.”

From its glitzy opening title sequence onwards, however, Amy seems determined to prove its subject wrong, insisting that her life – and not just her music – was of some divine significance. Presented as evidence are countless sequences of Winehouse scrambling to evade paparazzi, and though there’s a certain visual beauty in the stroboscopic fray of a thousand leering flashbulbs triggered in unison, the familiarity of these scenes is a sad reminder that this aspect of Winehouse’s life was far from unique. Press intrusion has become just another background hum in the world of the music documentary, along with the bitter erosion of personal relationships and the slow creep of drug addiction, both of which figure heavily in Amy.

Keen as the film is to mythologise her, Winehouse was right – she was an ordinary person, good at making music – and at its best Amy does for her what last year’s What Happened, Miss Simone? did for Nina, putting her oeuvre in a fresh context that allows you to see even something as numbingly ubiquitous as Back To Black in a new light. Even then, the film can’t help but overstate the case, needlessly plastering Winehouse’s unostentatious lyrics across the screen in flickering, garish text effects, like a mid-90s PowerPoint presentation filled with extraneous WordArt. It’s a typically gaudy touch in a film that can’t bring itself to take Amy at her word – to leave it alone.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Charlie Lyne, for The Guardian on Saturday 31st October 2015 09.00 Europe/London

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