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“Back to Black” review: another Amy Winehouse biopic? No no no.

“Back to Black” director Sam Taylor-Johnson has repeatedly said in interviews that the film was meant to center Amy Winehouse’s story from his own perspective. This may or may not be seen as an implicit criticism of “Amy,” Asif Kapadia’s Oscar-winning 2015 documentary about the singer, which wove together archival interviews — many of them damning — with her family and friends as well as ‘with Winehouse herself to demonstrate that everyone was responsible for her untimely demise.

Regardless, Taylor-Johnson’s remarks suggest that Winehouse, who died in 2011 at age 27 of alcohol poisoning, was co-opted in the years following her death. “Back to Black” is therefore an effort to tell the story as it would have been told.

But phew. If that was the goal, I can safely say that it completely failed. “Back to Black” has some positive points. One is Marisa Abela’s performance as Winehouse, which is deeply and lovingly engaging, if a little distracting at times. A few sequences work, too, particularly his marathon pub encounter with Blake Fielder-Civil (Jack O’Connell), the man whose exceptionally toxic relationship with Winehouse inspired the album that gave the film its name. (Unfortunately, there are very few scenes in which we see Winehouse’s songs come together — usually the best part of a musician biopic.)

“Back to Black” begins with Winehouse expressing that she just wants people to listen to her music and forget their problems for a while, and know who she really was. Then it follows her through her first gigs in Camden pubs, her friendships and her arguments with her boyfriends. When she meets Fielder-Civil, everything changes – and not for the better. Always a heavy drinker, she gradually becomes dependent on all kinds of substances, partly because he is a drug addict. When he returns to his girlfriend’s house, she writes angry songs that become “Back to Black.” When he returns, things get worse.

Yet the facts of the real Winehouse’s life and struggles are impossible to ignore, and some of the film’s choices, taken from a screenplay by Matt Greenhalgh, seem aimed at rewriting her story without her consent. Fielder-Civil, for example, said he was responsible for Winehouse’s first encounter with heroin, but in “Back to Black” she starts doing drugs on her own.

In the meet-cute scene, he introduces her to “Leader of the Pack”, by the Shangri-Las, who she claims to have never heard of. Winehouse has indeed cited the Shangri-Las as an influence on “Back to Black,” but in interview after interview in “Amy,” musicians and producers extol the breadth and depth of Winehouse’s musical knowledge. Ahmir K. Thompson, also known as Questlove, said Winehouse studied him on jazz, at a level that floored him. It’s not only hard to believe that this scene happened; it’s almost insulting to Winehouse, as if she needs Fielder-Civil to educate her.

Or there’s the affair of Winehouse’s father, Mitch Winehouse (played by Eddie Marsan), whom she adored. “Back to Black” portrays him as a kind, if sometimes misguided, man who only cared about his daughter’s well-being. The most damning line about her in Winehouses’ lyrics appears in her most famous song, “Rehab,” in which she gives “my daddy thinks I’m fine” as a reason for not going to rehab – a sentence entirely based on reality. In one scene in the film, Mitch says she doesn’t need to go to rehab. We never see her perform the song until the night of her Grammy wins, After she actually went to rehab, and so the line only makes her laugh sadly.

Yet reality also suggests questionable actions on his part – like the time he showed up in St Lucia, where his daughter was recovering, with a film crew to film a Channel 4 documentary called “My Daughter Amy.” This is not depicted in “Back to Black”, although it is also part of Winehouse’s story.

Artistic license, the twisting and rearrangement of facts, is common in biopics, for better or worse. This is often necessary, because summarizing a life into a two-hour feature film is not an easy task. Just because a film disrupts the historical record a little doesn’t automatically make it bad.

But in “Back to Black,” the omissions seem downright bizarre, like something is being overlooked. I can only speculate on the answer, but the speculation seems strong. Mitch Winehouse is the administrator of his daughter’s estate (and, incidentally, hated “Amy,” telling the filmmakers, “You should be ashamed of yourselves”). He has threatened to block a biopic of his daughter in the past, instead signing a deal in 2018 for an authorized biopic with one of the producers of “Back to Black.”

Given the film’s light treatment of some facts about the two most important men in Winehouse’s life, the picture begins to come into focus. “Back to Black” is far from the first biopic that softens the edges of real people for the Hollywood treatment. But since the stated goal of the film is to refocus Amy in her own story, it seems disgusting.

There are other things that seem bizarre in the film, the veracity of which I can’t know – Winehouse’s obsession, for example, with having a baby, and the implication that she self-destructed because that she and Fielder-Civil couldn’t. design. Maybe it happened. Maybe not.

Here’s what happened: a vibrant, dynamic and extremely talented woman whose life often didn’t really resemble her own found herself at the center of a film where her life, once again, is not. his – where the facts are manipulated. to favor men who undoubtedly did the same thing to his expense during his lifetime. Winehouse may one day get the biographical treatment she deserves. But I have to wonder if that’s even necessary. When she was alive, she did everything on her own, very well. And we still have the album she called “Back to Black.”

Back to black
Rated R for drug use, language and sexual innuendo. Duration: 2 hours 2 minutes. In theaters.

Gn entert
News Source : www.nytimes.com

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