** out of ****
Pop star Amy Winehouse's big mainstream breakthrough was her Back to Black album, featuring the single “Rehab.” From the get-go, it was clear she was battling substance abuse. Appearances in public and in the tabloids cemented her reputation as an out-of-control partier. Very quickly, she became easy joke fodder. She was a train wreck lots of people loved to watch.
Sadly, Winehouse died in 2011 at the age of 27. Her heart stopped as a result of years of drug abuse (including heroin and crack), heavy drinking, and bulimia. The new documentary Amy challenges viewers to see Winehouse as a troubled human being who needed help. It’s an admirable aim, but the film’s problem is redundancy.
Amy runs roughly 130 minutes, but the message is made clear long before that. Since there’s no additional thematic point to make and since Winehouse died too young for her life to start a new chapter, what viewers are left with is a punishing slog. In essence, you get to watch a talented woman slowly kill herself.
While it’s true that some terrific movies are painful to watch (Requiem for a Dream, Schindler’s List), Amy is too repetitive to make its queasiness worthwhile.