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Back to Black, Amy Winehouse’s biopic, is out of touch

Sam Taylor-Johnson’s look at the life and music of one of the 21st century’s greatest singers reduces her life to one half of a bad novel. No, no, no!

[O texto original, “‘Back to Black’: Amy Winehouse’s Biopic Is Seriously Out of Tune”, foi publicado na Rolling Stone USA; confira aqui]

AMY JADE WINEHOUSE It could have been any young girl growing up in 1990s London — hanging out with friends, sneaking beers, hooking up with guys, getting into trouble, getting her nose pierced and getting kicked out of drama school for it. (Well, for that and a few other reasons.) Until she opened her mouth, and apparently became possessed by a 1940s jazz singer, channeling the lust and sadness of centuries. Winehouse It almost seemed like a trick, but it wasn’t: soon, the white teenager from Southgate would go from a girl with a sad blues alto to an artist signed to Island Records, the former music house. Bob Marley It is U2. Later, she would add to her career the titles of Grammy-winning superstar, paparazzi magnet, cautionary tale and member of the 27 Club. Everything she expected, she said Winehousewas to be remembered for her own interpretation of a classic sound: “I just want people to hear my voice and forget about their problems for five minutes.”

This request is heard at the opening of Back to Blackin the voice-over narration of the newsroom that got her into the school from which she was expelled. Winehouse is running, and we eventually discover that the woman with the huge hairdo appears to be ecstatic not because of where she’s going, but because of who’s waiting for her at the end of the race. The biopic Bohemian Rhapsody doesn’t want to be a four-alarm funeral pyre, but a tragic romance, featuring Amy through the prism of the amour fou that sent her on a downward spiral and fueled her triple-platinum second album.

This way, the film suggests, you will better understand the person behind that voice, who, dominated by his many problems, will undoubtedly make you forget yours. Watch the adaptation and you will see a woman hopelessly in love, heartbroken, self-destructive, publicly deteriorating, proudly drunk on vodka and intoxicated by the scent of her man, screaming at the world and eventually walking out of it. Occasionally, filmmakers are generous enough to remember that she also made music.

This is an attempt to drag Amy back to a public conversation she never really left. It doesn’t come to blindly praise the one who refused to go to rehab, no, no, no (and eventually it did), but it seems to come to bury her. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, Back to Black tries to be both a formulaic musical biopic — one that includes success, setbacks, and a phoenix-like rise before the eventual fall and even a Eureka moment! early (with the young Amy working timidly on the chords of “What Is It About Men” from his first album, Frank). There is also a rougher, less glamorous and more complex look at an artist who did not live her songs wisely, but intensely. That it doesn’t succeed in any of these regards isn’t exactly surprising, given how much the film seems at odds with its subject matter and with itself. Yet you admire the fact that the film occasionally hints at something bolder, more unique, hidden in its margins. Taylor-Johnson came from the art world before becoming a director, and there’s an uncomfortable rawness to moments that adds texture and harshness to Winehouse’s headlong plunge into a toxic union with a charming misfit.

In fact, we know Winehouse — played by the actress Marisa Abelain Industryin what feels like a zero-zero even by music biography standards—first as a brilliant young woman, basking in her father’s attention Mitch (Eddie Marsan), Lover Sinatraand your lovely grandmother Cynthia (Lesley Manville). She plays in pubs and jazz clubs, irritates a boyfriend with hints in her lyrics, is a fan of Sarah Vaughn It is Lauryn Hill. Winehouse is also the opposite of a delicate flower, facing off against her management company, record executives and TV show hosts like Jonathan Ross and anyone who tries to reduce her to some throwaway, easily categorized commercial hit. “I’m not a fucking Spice Girl!” she says, with a dose of pepper, to her representatives, before signing with the same company she manages Ginger, Posh and company.

From the moment she sees your Blake (Jack O’Connell) leaning against the bar and emanating pure scoundrel charm, you can say that Winehouse is lost. He seduces her with strong drinks, strong arms, and his own tunes on the jukebox; the final blow is to present Amy to the Shangra-Las’ “Leader of the Pack” and the whole notion of 60s girl groups. The film wants a supporting cast of heroes and villains: although the documentary Amyin Asif Kapadiafrom 2015 (which we suggest seeing as both a complement and counterpoint to this recreation of successes and failures) deals with Mitch Winehouse as both facilitator and nurturer, Back to Black more or less treats it as the only thing standing between her and oblivion. No mercy is given to Blake Fielder-Civilunless you count the fact that the film depicts Winehouse dabbling in hard drugs alone to feel what he feels, rather than suggesting he introduced her to such vices firsthand. Not that it matters to those telling this story, so to speak. In their eyes, the real drug is the drug itself. Blake.

No one would be blamed for thinking that Back to Black is under the same toxic influence, knowing that it is bad for Winehouse and where this dependence on his presence will take her. But the film can’t let go of him, as much as she can. The biopic does minimal service to her personal demons and desire to be a mother, her lioness-like behavior when it comes to defending her songs, and her need to inhabit them emotionally, regardless of the state of her heart. Taylor-Johnson confessed that he wanted to make the connection with Camden the lens through which we see the highs and lows of Winehouse, which makes sense when it comes to O’Connell’s performance as the world’s most irresistible scoundrel. Thanks to the actor, you can practically smell old cigarettes, yesterday’s fish and chips, and Ax deodorant on him. Abela also gives the sense that there is something about him that has clouded his judgment and heightened his hormones. His singing is better than what you’ve heard, even though we know that trying to emulate a singular voice will never replicate the real one. Now the feeling of Amy of being drunk in love with your guy? This is captured in an impressive way.

The necessity of Amy per Blake famously delayed her second album, which would have to be a hit if she wanted to break through in the United States. So, reluctantly, Winehouse goes to New York and begins work on what will be called Back to Black. And here’s where highlighting the relationship as the central tenet of your story starts to lose the plot. Good luck to anyone hoping to see, say, Jason Schwartzman or Adam Brody Doing your best imitations of Mark Ronson — the producer is mentioned once, but is absent. (Taylor-Johnson said that he was not included because he is not really part of the “toxic love story” of the couple, which tells you everything you need to know.) The recording of the title track is reduced to a montage interspersed with footage from her grandmother’s funeral. The feeling is of wanting to know more about how Winehouse achieved that incredibly moving recording of a song that, even more than “Rehab”defined that wonderful, fatalistic and “fuck the rest”. Instead, you get four excerpts and a funeral. Something seems out of place.

Since Bohemian Rhapsody began a new gold rush of gold record artist success stories, criticism of generic concert and studio sequences for being cliché became the cliché for the genre, in and of itself. When it’s about Back to Blackwhat is most missing are sequences of our false Winehouse on stage, tearing up more songs, to balance the indistinguishable paparazzi attacks and the genre’s standard misery. You can understand that the people involved in making this film have great admiration and possibly even love for her brief work, but the film seems almost ashamed of having to cede the spotlight to her. There is no sense of a gradual decay seen through his suffering through the songs — there is just suffering, period.

The warning and the apology in case this is a spoiler, but they keep it “Rehab” to near the end, using her Grammys performance, her shock at winning, and her emotional speech as a last attempt at elevation before the end. Then Amy buys a new house, lit to look artificially like the sky, climbs a ladder, and it’s all over, except for one last morbid cliché at the end. Back to Black disappears into its tragic story, so scared of being an auto-tune biopic that it ends up simply being out of tune and disappearing altogether. Paraphrasing “You Know That I’m No Good”it almost seems as if he knows it’s no good.

What has been the best film of 2024 so far? Vote for your favorite!

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  • Dune: Part 2
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Source: Rollingstone

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