BACK TO BLACK

WISHING 'WE ONLY SAID GOODBYE' TO HOLLOW BIOPICS

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Chris Dos Santos
11th April 2024

We are currently living through a plague of musician biopics. This is all, of course, due to 2018s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ banking US$910 million at the box office globally. None have reached that level of success, with many coming across as hollow shells of these legends’ stories. ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’, ‘Bob Marley: One Love’ and ‘Respect’ among others are all prime examples of this trend. Now Amy Winehouse is getting the biopic treatment - but where will it rank amongst the current biopics?

‘Back to Black’ documents Amy Winehouse (Marisa Abela, ‘Barbie’) from her first album ‘Frank’, her relationship with Blake (Jack O’Connell, ‘Ferrari’, ‘Money Monster’) and Grammy-winning album ‘Back to Black’, ending with her death in 2011.

Amy Winehouse is a force in the music industry, her legacy is still impacting the business to this day. Her voice, talent and aesthetic are engrained into history. She died only 13 years ago, her Academy Award-winning documentary was only released in 2015, and so a biopic on her is firstly unnecessary and feels too soon.

'BACK TO BLACK' TRAILER

The film is truly bottom on the barrel on the biopic scale. It’s hollow and vain and doesn’t seem to care about Winehouse’s music - or more importantly, her life. The film boils her life down to a guy, a guy made her sad, a guy made her drink, a guy made her do drugs and he is the reason she ultimately died because she was sad that he left. It’s utterly disrespectful to everything she did in her life and oversimplifies her story to the point of being insulting. As a movie it’s fine, truly a paint-by-numbers generic offering, but when you take a step back and account for the person’s story they are trying to depict it’s a slap in the face.

The script is the biggest problem here - as mentioned, the focus is mainly on her relationship with Blake. We truly only learn about him, while Amy is reduced to her character development being: Amy not drinking means she’s happy, Amy drinking means she’s sad. It felt so strange that he was getting so much screen time, especially at the sacrifice of spending time with Amy. I understand he is a vital part of her story, but to be as central as he is here was the wrong approach.

The film is truly bottom on the barrel on the biopic scale. It’s hollow and vain and doesn’t seem to care about Winehouse’s music - or more importantly, her life.

There are so many characters who just appear, most notably her mum just shows up for the first time at the Grammy Awards without any explanation. There are also glaring omissions, mainly with her band and musician and producer Mark Ronson, who is named but never appears. This does not feel like a definitive look at Amy’s life, it’s so incredibly disrespectful to her and those around her.

I kept thinking if you were to watch this not knowing any about her what would your takeaway be - and I think that would be confused. The film just jumps from scene to scene without any through line or reasoning. If you know her story you are going to be angry because of how much it misses and gets wrong.  

‘Back to Black’ is a disrespectful, hollow depiction of Amy Winehouse’s legacy. There is absolutely no reason to see this. Marisa Abela tries her best, but even she can’t save this. Stay home and watch ‘Amy’ - it’s on ABC iView, meaning it costs you nothing to watch in Australia. Stream her albums while reading her Wikipedia page; it’s more respectful to her life than this mess.

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