I was pressured by multiple sources to go see Amy, as I am about any film I go to see at a cinema. Though I love the furore and slight pomp that comes from seeing films that aren’t illegally downloaded, I find cinemas too cramped and too expensive. Plus, I’m the world’s most fidgety girl with a tiny bladder, so 3 hours in one seat is near on impossible for me. But, my housemates found the cheapest tickets and I couldn’t resist going to see a film that had so much hype. Ironic, that a woman who hated the limelight had a film made about her that was positioned as “a mainstream event”, or so says Hamish Moseley, the head of the distribution for UK company Altitude, the company responsible for the UK release, in a recent Guardian article.
But the film has been a critical and commercial success, making it the biggest British documentary debut ever, but I feel like the film stopped short at multiple points. Firstly, whoever was in charge of the typeface used during the film needs to be fired. Though lots of the film’s footage was from home videos, there was no need to make the film look like it had been hashed together in Windows Movie Maker. Whenever Amy sang her lyrics popped up on the screen in a garish serif font, which undoubtedly took away from the majesty of her voice, though it may just be that way for font pedants like me. Had they used the font from the marketing campaigns, I feel it would have been a more polished affair than it was.
Not one for talking head interviews, Asif Kapadia’s style came through again, just as it did in Senna, using found footage overlaid with interviews created a sense of closeness to Amy, rather than to any of the interviewees, which had the profound effect of making them seem more like characters than real people. Just as Winehouse’s hair got bigger, her winged eyeliner almost big enough to make her fly away, more sides of the story were laid out for the audience. It was clear who the villains of the piece were: Mitchell, Amy’s father, and former husband Blake Fielder-Civil. Never have I been so aware that I was in an English cinema than when the audience tutted at the screen when Mitchell made a flippant comment about Winehouse not needing rehab, when the past ten minutes had seen her brutal decline, spiralling further into a life of drink, drugs, and bulimia. For me, this was the truest testament to the provocation the film produced. Sure, the English can laugh at comedies, gasp at horrors, but it takes real mastery to get them to act like they do when they’re in a particularly unruly queue in Waitrose.
But more than anything, it was set up as some sort of misery porn. Far too many shots seemed to be taken from the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame, horribly documenting Winehouse’s outer performance of the inner torment she was clearly facing. Though I felt extremely moved by the film, especially the end five minutes, it is undeniable that this film could have been much more heavily focused on her music, but sadly in our age of celebrity consumption we are far more ready as an audience to watch someone being dragged down by personal demons and then point the finger, than celebrate the tragic heroism of her music.