The Reel Review

B-

The meteoric rise and death of Grammy award-winning British singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse is explored in this biopic starring Marisa Abela, Jack O’Connell as her former husband, Eddie Marsan as her father and Oscar-nominee Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) as her grandmother who inspired her iconic look.

Marisa Abela in Back to Black

The most impressive element of this film is Marisa Abela (Industry, Rogue Agent), who does an extraordinary job of capturing Amy Winehouse’s iconic look, her charismatic but self-destructive personality and wit, and even her eerily mature sounding singing voice, for which Abela underwent extensive training. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) also does an excellent job technically, capturing Winehouse’s love of jazz and life in London’s Camden Town neighborhood where Winehouse lived, as well as showcasing Winehouse’s greatest hits through a variety of vividly-filmed stage performances.

Lesley Manville and Eddie Marsan in Back to Black

But it is the story itself that falls short. In her attempt to tell the story from Amy Winehouse’s perspective, Taylor-Johnson glosses over some very important facts, ignoring that it was former husband Blake Fielder-Civil who introduced Winehouse to heroin and crack cocaine, and that Winehouse’s own father, who is very sympathetically portrayed in the film, was an enabler who looked the other way so as not to jeopardize his meal ticket. That, combined with some other puzzling omissions and a bizarre rearranging of events in Winehouse’s brief life, will only frustrate devoted Winehouse fans familiar with the far more accurate and riveting 2015 Oscar-winning documentary, Amy. Amy Winehouse’s legacy deserves better than this inaccurate and boringly bland depiction.

REEL FACTS

• In 2008, Amy Winehouse became the first British woman to win five Grammys, which included three of the “big four” categories – Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year (for “Rehab”) – as well as Best Pop Vocal Album.

Blake Fielder-Civil and Amy Winehouse at the 2007 MTV Europe Music Awards

• Amy Winehouse was married to Blake Fielder-Civil from 2007 to 2009, the brief marriage ending two years prior to Winehouse’s 2011 death from alcohol poisoning. Fielder-Civil is now the father of two children with another former partner whom he met in rehab.

Mitch and Amy Winehouse

Back to Black was made with the cooperation of Winehouse’s father Mitch, who runs the Amy Winehouse Foundation.

 

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1 Comments

  1. Melinda May 17, 2024

    Thanks for your unvarnished opinion.