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Film review: ‘Amy’

Amy” tore out my heart and ate it in front of me.

I could only watch in utter pity as the North London jazz singer’s life spiraled out of control clip by clip, unable to stop her from destroying herself. When the film ended, I wished that the lights would fade back to black, so Amy might have lived past July 23, 2011, and the documentary could show her eventual recovery.

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Director Asif Kapadia’s use of behind-the-scenes footage and home videos from Amy Winehouse’s life to portray the “girl behind the name” intimately covers the singer’s rise to fame and her subsequent downfall. The documentary follows her troubled life chronologically through the eyes of her friends, family and the media.

Amy Winehouse was a North London native and never seriously thought she would have a career in singing. She began to sing in jazz clubs with the help of her friends in the early 2000s, and slowly but surely worked toward her first album, “Frank”, released 2003.

It was a huge success, and made Amy realize that she could have a successful career in singing. Over her lifetime, she won a myriad of awards, including multiple Grammys in 2008 for her 2006 album “Back to Black” and her song “Rehab.”

But her achievements were not without hardship. The documentary shows that as she rose to higher and higher levels of stardom, her ambition and drive fell lower and lower. She never wanted to be famous, and said she didn’t know if she could handle being a famous singer, almost foreshadowing her fate. The film shows her drinking as she sings on stage, in her personal time and even shows her drinking glass after glass of whiskey and coke during a recording session.

The documentary shows one of her final live shows where she staggers around on stage, unable to face the crowd. After a few moments, the audience of the show realizes what is going on, and yells at her to “Sing or give me my money back.” It is bleak and realistic, a portrayal of how her public image was a wholly different person compared to who she was battling in her personal life.

In fact, the song “Rehab” is used many times throughout the movie to portray the different effects it had on her life. Early on, it represents her breakthrough moment, the moment when the world knew the name Winehouse. She was happy and overjoyed that she had finally made it. But toward the end of the movie, the song takes on a different meaning. In a home video clip, Amy is told to sing “Rehab” on the way to a rehabilitation clinic and can only mumble through a few of the first lines. In this moment, “Rehab” is not a song of success and independence, but rather a song of loss of control and helplessness.

Toward the end of her life, Amy was tired of touring and singing and wanted to “be able to walk down the street without being harassed.” She had one more tour planned in the United States that she was forced to perform. Instead of this, she chose to get so wasted that she couldn’t perform. The result of this binge was her untimely, but inevitable, death at the age of 27.

“Amy” is bleak, harsh and yet brutally realistic. It shows how even though you can be famous, fame can tear apart vulnerable souls, and Amy’s intense popularity destroyed what soul was left in her voice and in her mind. The film captured the loneliness of stardom, and how Amy’s lack of control over her own life led her to her untimely demise.

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So “Amy” ripped my heart out and ate it in front of me, much like how the world tore apart a vunerable, innocent girl who only wanted to sing and enjoy her life. I left the theater dejected and feeling the same way I felt nearly four years ago when the singer’s corpse was discovered in her home, killed by the very thing that made her famous.

Rating: 9/10

Collegian Reporter Erik Petrovich can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @EAPetrovich.

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