Friday, August 28, 2015

Amy Winehouse: Documentary musings II

In the trailer for the movie Amy, Amy Winehouse was described as the girl that "disappeared in front of our eyes." What that meant, I learned, was that Amy grew up in the world of social media, and there are videos of her from early childhood on. The film uses footage taken by friends and bystanders, I assume. If you want to get a sense of "public" her addiction was, you'll find videos, one after another, of Amy wasted on Youtube -- in concerts, on the street, in interviews, you name it. There was apparently no one to rein her in or protect her from herself. It's sickening and sad, but also remarkable -- when in history has someone's life been so "out there"? There is more footage of her on drugs than sober, and on the whole, it makes her look like a fool. No wonder she was the butt of jokes back then.

Looking at Amy with a kind eye
What you see in the movie is pretty restrained -- there is some footage of her under the influence of drugs, but it's all in context -- we see the whole person.  The director, I think, wanted to counter the tidal wave of negative press and visuals of Amy when she was alive.  My first reaction is, good for him.

But is it true?
The movie  Amy was respectful of Amy, which I appreciate -- it's long overdue. But is it balanced? I've read a whole bunch about her.  I'm not sure the Amy (movie) perspective is entirely accurate, or at least it omits some important truths. The movie seemed to suggest that her success/stardom, and the people close to her, failed her horribly.  I've read excerpts from people close to her suggesting this too:

“There was a huge chain of selfishness and negligence around Amy,” says [Nick] Shymansky. “I remember an expert saying on the news that she could drop dead at any minute. But there were still gigs being booked. I would never have anything to do professionally with someone in that state.” Says Davis: “The finger can be pointed at certain people, but in many respects we can all be blamed. I’ve gone through all those feelings myself. I would have had to be there 24 hours a day to try and help.”
That she was allowed to perform in public, over and over, when she was barely able to stand, would suggest gross mismanagement on the part of her record company. But I don't know.  Her boyfriend/husband Blake may have introduced her to hard drugs. Her family may have been riding the wave of her celebrity, and record companies are (gasp) in business to make money. From what I've read since seeing Amy,  her troubles started in her early teens. Long  before she took the stage to sing professionally she was an impulsive girl prone to extremes of emotion. Bulimia, cutting, drinking, smoking pot, she did all of these things in her youth. She was kicked out of school and moved out of the house at 15. Amy omits, or at least downplays early signs of her addictive tendencies. I don't know why. It's possible that the sources I read were wrong -- but they seem credible, and they are echoed in many sources. Probably, it was a perfect storm of Amy's vulnerability and (at best) inaction from those close to her.

You all know I missed out on all of this while it was happening. What do you think?


  1. It was a great post. I appreciate

  2. Have you seen The Rose with Bette Midler? It is supposedly based on the life of Janis Joplin. I am not an Amy Winehouse fan particularly (nor was I a fan of Janis), but the similarities are familiar. Creative people are often very unhappy people, finding an outlet for their unhappiness in drink, drug, at-risk behavior. Their creative success is never quite enough, sadly. If there is a strong family or other effective support system (or perhaps an inner strength that comes from religion or a very strong sense of self), the "demons" are held at bay and the individual does not fall prey to the dangers that befell Amy, Janis, and others. It is a sad thing what happens to talent like this, when possible intervention comes too late.


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