Directed by Asif Kapadia, this is a fine and informative documentary about Amy Winehouse. I was very upset when Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all died at age 27. Amy also died at 27 from an accidental alcohol overdose in 2011. (Perhaps there is some weird karma for rock stars.) I wasn’t a huge fan of hers at the time, so her tragic death didn’t have the same powerful impact on me. I had, however, bought her smash 2006 CD “Back to Black” that sold about 20 million copies and won multiple Grammy awards. I didn’t really “get it” back then, but, after seeing this film, I plan to re-listen.
The movie starts with young Amy, a North London-born Jewish girl, but primarily covers her early career and after she became an icon. Unfortunately, Amy was an accident waiting to happen. Her father was unfaithful to her mother and left the family, which was a major trauma for her. Amy still idealized him, although he exploited her in various ways. She must have had tremendous unconscious rage at him, which caused intense unconscious guilt. This, in turn, led to significant self-defeating and self-sabotaging behavior, in an unsuccessful attempt to expiate this guilt. (Unconscious guilt is the great perpetuator of suffering, while the experiencing and draining the buried reservoir of unconscious guilt creates freedom for the psyche and resolution of symptoms.) Her self-destructiveness is painstakingly revealed in the film, which includes excessive use of drugs and alcohol and poor romantic choices. She could not handle the pressures of fame, especially the demands from her record label to keep cranking out hits, and her Promoter/Manager to keep on touring, even when she was exhausted and unraveling.
Tony Bennett considered her to be in the same class as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday as far as her natural talent as a jazz singer. Amy had multiple other musical influences, including rap, hip-hop, and soul. She wrote highly personal poems and then put them to music. The film shows many of her performances and demonstrates her considerable artistry. She was a unique and phenomenal talent who crashed and burned way too soon.