‘Back to Black’ Review: Another Amy Winehouse Biopic? No, no, no.

“Back to Black” director Sam Taylor-Johnson has repeatedly said in interviews that the film aims to focus Amy Winehouse’s story from her own perspective. This may or may not be meant as an implicit criticism of Asif Kapadia’s Oscar-winning 2015 documentary “Amy” about the singer, which pieced together archival interviews with family and friends as well as Winehouse herself to create a This case can be made. Everyone was responsible for his untimely demise.

Either way, Taylor-Johnson’s comments suggest that Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 27, has been co-opted in the years since her death. “Back to Black”, then, is an attempt to tell the story as it was meant to be.

But, oops. If that was the objective, then I can easily say that it failed completely. “Back to Black” has some bright spots. One of these is Marisa Abela’s performance as Winehouse, which is deeply and lovingly committed, if sometimes a little distracting. Some sequences work too, particularly her marathon pub meet-cute with Blake Fielder-Civil (Jack O’Connell), the man whose exceptionally toxic relationship with Winehouse inspired the album for which the film takes its name. Has gone. (Unfortunately there are very few scenes in which we see Winehouse sing songs together – usually the best part of a musician biopic.)

“Back to Black” begins with Winehouse expressing that she wanted people to listen to her music and forget about their troubles for a while, and learn who she really was. It then follows her through her early gigs in a Camden pub, her friendships and her feud with her boyfriend. When she meets Fielder-Civil, everything changes – and not for good. Always a heavy drinker, she gradually becomes addicted to all kinds of substances, partly because she is an addict. When he goes back to his girlfriend, she writes angry lyrics that become “Back to Black”. Things get worse when he returns.

Yet it’s impossible to ignore the facts of the real Winehouse’s life and struggles, and some of the film’s choices from Matt Greenhalgh’s screenplay seem aimed at rewriting her history without her consent. For example, Fielder-Civil has said that she instigated Winehouse’s first encounter with heroin, but in “Back to Black” she starts shooting herself.

In a meet-cute scene, he introduces her to the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack”, whom she claims she has never heard of. wine house actually quoted Shangri-Las as an influence on “Back to Black”, but in one-on-one interviews at “Amy”, the musician and producer praise the breadth and depth of Winehouse’s musical knowledge. Ahmeer K. Thompson, also known as Questlove, has said that Winehouse schooled Him On jazz, to a level that overwhelmed him. It’s not hard to believe that this scene happened; This is almost insulting to Winehouse, as if she needed Fielder-Civil to educate her.

Or the case of Winehouse’s father, Mitch Winehouse (played by Eddie Marsan), whom she loved dearly. In “Back to Black” he is depicted as a kind and occasionally misguided man who only cares about his daughter’s well-being. The most scandalous line about her in Winehouse’s lyrics appears in her most famous song, “Rehab”, in which she gives “My daddy thinks I’m OK” as a reason for staying out of rehab – this line. Completely based on reality. In one scene in the film, Mitch says she doesn’t need to go to rehab. We never saw her sing until her Grammy win the night before, after She’s actually been to rehab, and so this line presents a wry laugh to her.

Yet the reality suggests questionable actions on his part as well – e.g. That time he was spotted with a camera crew in St. Lucia, where his daughter was recovering To film a Channel 4 documentary called “My Daughter Amy”. It is not featured in “Back to Black”, even though it is also part of Winehouse’s story.

Artistic license, combining and rearranging facts, is common in biopics, for better or worse. This is often necessary, because fitting a life into a two-hour feature film is no easy task. Just because a film plays with the historical record even slightly does not mean that it automatically becomes bad.

But the omissions in “Back to Black” feel downright strange, as if something was being overlooked. I can only speculate on the answer, but the speculation seems strong. Mitch Winehouse is the administrator of his daughter’s estate (and, coincidentally, hated “Amy”), telling the filmmakers, “You should be ashamed of yourselves, he has threatened to block Instead, his daughter’s biopic in the past Signing an agreement in 2018 For an authorized biopic with one of the producers of “Back to Black”.

The film’s light treatment of some of the facts surrounding the two most important people in Winehouse’s life further complicates the picture. “Back to Black” is far from the first biopic that strips away real people for the Hollywood treatment. But because the film’s stated purpose is to re-center Amy in her own story, it feels cheap.

There are other things in the film that seem strange, the veracity of which I cannot possibly know – for example, Winehouse’s obsession with having a child, and the implication that she destroyed herself because she and Fielder-Civil couldn’t do it. Could. conceive. Maybe this happened. Maybe this did not happen.

Here’s what happened: A vibrant, dynamic, abundantly talented woman whose life often didn’t seem like hers ended up at the center of a movie where her life, once again, is not her own – where the facts are tampered with. This is done to take the side of the men who allegedly did the same at her expense while she was alive. Winehouse may someday get the biopic treatment she deserves. But I have to wonder if it’s even necessary. When she was alive, she did it all on her own, just fine. And we still have that album they did called “Back to Black.”

back to Black
Rated R for drug use, language and sexual innuendo. Running time: 2 hours 2 minutes. in Theaters.

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