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I never knew much about, or listened much to, Amy Winehouse’s music. Not because she wasn’t a talent, because after watching the fine documentary “Amy”, the tragic singer obviously was. If anything, it was due to the fact that by the time I began to hear about her on a regular basis, Ms. Winehouse had already begun that tragic spiral downwards to an untimely death at the age of 27. This 128-minute chronicle of her life is quite good, plus very touching and involving–but still probably a bit too long. However, what director Asif Kapadia (the lauded doc “Senna”, from 2010) gives away in tight pacing, he more than makes up for with an abundance of archival footage, focusing on Amy’s short existence from childhood to young adult. There are dozens of interviews, a bunch of wonderful songs, and her last recorded performance–a duet with the legendary Tony Bennett–just weeks before her 2011 death from alcohol poisoning. The Bennett stuff is among the most affecting, as the old pro soothes a clearly awestruck Ms. Winehouse (she cites him as a lifelong idol, earlier in the film), with gentle–almost fatherly–support and reassurance as she keeps botching her performance. Was Amy’s real father a blinded-by-HER-fame opportunist? Could any of her friends or family have saved her? History of these types of things tell us no. But it’s still incredibly sad to witness her descent into an alcohol and drug-fueled haze, as flashbulbs continue to pop by the hundreds wherever she emerges from, while the late-night chat shows mock her increasingly haggard appearance and erratic behavior. How can anyone handle that level of scrutiny? Because of “Amy”, I feel I understand Ms. Winehouse quite a bit better now. This documentary had me wanting to save the fragile girl. It successfully created a whole, complex human being for me. I didn’t pay much attention a decade ago, but I am listening now. Poor dear.

Grade:  A-


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