Back To Black

Back To Black
Back To Black
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The biggest crime that any biopic can commit is running real footage of the actual person in question while the credits are rolling to demonstrate how well the performance was delivered. None of this is found in Back To Black: most of us watched Amy Winehouse rise, become famous and then slowly lose it all, so even a casual observer can replay the sequences in his or her mind.

Incredibly brave and admirable move by Marisa Abela (BBC TV drama Industry) who is fairly new to acting but has landed up with possibly one of the most closely scrutinised performances ever. And she is fantastic: Abela can sing and her voice sounds like Amy’s loud-mouthed vibrancy from interviews which were not cut out for anybody’s benefit plus she trembles due to alcohol as if they have run out on a cold night at a corner shop. In a scene set at 2008’s Glastonbury Festival, she gets off stage, wobbling on high-heeled shoes close to the audience near security guards who could just let her fall. It feels woozy and alive and real.

However, it is regrettable that her role is diminished by an underdeveloped manuscript which bids us farewell with less than we already know about her story. In 2015 Kapadia’s documentary Amy showed us extensive archive footage and what snippets of her life were not revealed to tabloids. Their counter-reaction was documented in 2021 through BBC documentary “Reclaiming Amy” (her father Mitch had even had nervous breakdown after Jazz got released). This film purports to tell us about it from Amy’s point of view but fails at its most important point-the question of what attracted Amy Winehouse towards Blake Fielder-Civil (Jack O’Connell), though? Nothing more than a bloke from a pawnshop was he there.

Also, selective facts make Eddie Marsan playing as father appear as the ultimate good guy while other parts of her life are by-passed. Her best friends, literally so close that one selected a Dolce & Gabbana leopard print dress for her funeral itself, hardly feature at all in a Blake-centric story.

Maybe it’s the film concept: the script borrows from her Back to Black lyrics and Fielder-Civil was the inspiration for this second and last album. But while the songs are like show tunes telling us her life story, there’s no time dedicated to showing us how she wrote them: (singing them out complete from start to finish on an acoustic guitar in her bedroom doesn’t count). We see none of the artistic decisions she made in the studio that led to her becoming a phenomenon, or the complicated but powerful singer-songwriter who won five Grammys in one night. In Back To Black, Amy Winehouse is just a girl singing about a boy.

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