BACK TO BLACK Barely Scratches The Surface

Singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse was tremendously talented but lived a mostly heartbreaking life struggling with addiction, mental illness, and the trappings of fame. Despite her troubles, she made an indelible mark on music with her heartfelt songs, channeling the spirits of the strong women of jazz and pop whom she admired greatly. A new biopic by director Sam Taylor-Johnson and writer Matt Greenhalgh promises to shed more light on the mythos of Amy Winehouse but fails to reveal indeed the real, hurting, emotional person the talented singer was.

Marisa Abela stars as Amy Winehouse. The movie follows her attempts at a musical career, from her mostly humble upbringing in Britain to her aspirations as a musical star, along with her struggles with addiction and love. The film does celebrate a lot of Winehouse’s significant contributions to music and portrays her struggles with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, but fails to reveal anything new or insightful about the artist.

First and foremost, I must acknowledge the work of the filmmakers of the 2015 documentary film Amy. This film offers a definitive insight into the problems Amy Winehouse had through her tragically short life and how her toxic relationships with lovers and her father led to her downfall. Back to Black, the biopic, not only fails to shed more light on her life and career but also barely covers any ground. This movie is one of the most shallow musician biopics I have ever watched.

Not only does this movie fail to acknowledge that Winehouse had mental illness, but it also never acknowledges the problems associated with Winehouse’s relationship with her father, Mitch. These are all things that the documentary does so well. Therefore, I cannot recommend this movie to anyone interested in all the facts surrounding Amy Winehouse’s troubled career and her untimely demise.

As far as the cast is concerned, Marisa Abela is poorly miscast as Amy. However, she has some talent for singing. She looks nothing like the real person. In addition, her acting and singing as Winehouse come across as a caricature, too often than not. Eddie Marsan stars as Mitch Winehouse but needs to be given something to do here. The rest of the cast is solid, but the writing and direction of the movie have already done enough damage.

While not a complete abomination, Back to Black is not the biopic Amy Winehouse deserves. I would not at all recommend it for anyone who knows little to nothing about the artist, and I would insist that people watch the documentary Amy instead.

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