May 22, 2024

★★

A life lived so vibrantly spotlighted as that of Amy Winehouse’s was ripe for the biographical pickings from the second of her loss of life, all too quickly again in 2011. It’s an indictment of the day and age we reside in. Nothing to be happy with. Again to Black is the primary dramatisation out of the blocks. It follows, and skulks within the shadow of, Asif Kapadia’s superior 2015 documentary, Amy. The place that movie dived deep, upsetting her household within the course of, this one’s however a paddle within the shallow finish. A superficial and underwhelming entry to the present vogue for jukebox biopics. It’s worse than that although. Again to Black hasn’t the self-awareness to recognise itself as being no higher than the then paparazzi it vindicates.

Many, it’s doubtless, will discover the movie solely satisfactory. Courtesy of Winehouse herself, it boasts a terrific soundtrack, permitting Sam Taylor-Johnson ample alternative for montage. It’s a straightforward win for the Fifty Shades of Gray director, who shoots with eloquence and magnificence. As for the lead, Marisa Abela actually appears to be like the half. She makes a powerful stab too at vocal impersonation, going hell for leather-based with track and script alike. Rote, simplistic writing – from Movie Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’s Matt Greenhalgh – does Abela no favours however her effort and respect for Winehouse are palpable. There’s extra to capturing Amy than the donning of a beehive and fake ‘Daddy’s Lady’ tattoo.

Amy has neither because the movie opens. Again to Black joins her story simply previous to the completion of Frank, her debut album, in 2003. It was an album born of anachronism, jazz within the age of manufactured pop. Amy is not any f*****g Spice Lady and received’t be manufactured for anybody. She’s a household lady by and thru, devoutly near her nan, Lesley Manville’s Cynthia, and the apple of her mother and father’ respective eyes. Mum, Janis (Juliet Cowan), is unwell, we’re instructed, however the movie has no additional perception there.

Extra focal is Mitch Winehouse, who’s performed by a sympathetic Eddie Marsan. The actual Mitch hated Kapadia’s documentary – which dared to critique his culpability in Amy’s downfall – however ought to discover Again to Black extra palatable. Right here, he’s a doting, kindly determine. Completely exonerated. True, he’s the person who mentioned no, no, no to rehab however he’s the daddy that drove her there when she really wanted it. No point out is manufactured from the exploitative documentary he made for Channel 4 simply two years earlier than her loss of life.

Additionally let off quite flippantly is Jack O’Connell’s Blake Fielder-Civil, the opposite half in a poisonous, on-off relationship constructed on persistent obsession and frequent inebriation. Their relationship elicits each the movie’s greatest scene – a woozy and dangerously seductive public home meet-cute – and an uneasy sense of misappropriation. Whereas acknowledging Blake’s position in Amy’s introduction to class-A medicine, Taylor-Johnson takes nice lengths to separate him from her first dabble. As an alternative, focus falls on Blake’s vitality within the forming of Amy’s iconic picture and sound. It’s true that ‘Again to Black’ – the album – was born of their first breakup – and maybe he did introduce her to The Shangri-Las – however that doesn’t make him her star progenitor. Theirs was a love story with sharp edges however Taylor-Johnson’s examination is much from incisive.

A scarcity of penetrating evaluation into the truth of Amy’s story proves a pervasive difficulty in Black to Black. Actually, Taylor-Johnson’s failure to get beneath Amy’s pores and skin within the first act, units up a second that’s merely reconstructive and a 3rd that exploits. Who advantages from excessive shut ups of a tear-stained Amy? It’s the shot the paps would’ve killed for in 2011. Minimal display time is presented Amy’s bulimia and solely not often within the movie is it recommended that she could endure from despair. As an alternative, Amy is introduced as a lifelong teenager: sweary, petulant, naive and hormonal. Strip away the nuance in her story and what’s left is that story of a younger girl orchestrating her personal demise. Such an angle doesn’t even scratch the floor.

T.S.