Updated, rewritten: I came out of Asif Kapadia‘s Amy with a sense of sadness, of course. But I didn’t have any one reaction, to be honest. Ten minutes after the screening ended I bought Back to Black. When Amy Winehouse was great, which was nearly every time she sang, she was insanely great. But she was a mess for so long and such a foregone conclusion in terms of an early death that when it finally happened it was hardly a shock. It was almost a relief because at least the tortured aspects of her life had come to an end. That sounds a bit heartless but some people seem so bound for oblivion that you can’t help but feel a certain distance and disinterest.
My basic thought when the doc began was “Okay, how much purr and ectsasy before she starts to downswirl and die?” By the time Amy ended I was hissing Blake Fielder, her bastard ex-husband who definitely shortened her life with his cavalier attitude about drugs. Ditto her asshole dad, Mitch Winehouse, who very definitely leeched and didn’t help his daughter in the right guiding way. Without those two motherfuckers, Amy Winehouse might still be here.
And I’ll repeat again that the old saga of the self-destructive musical genius or famous performer — grew up gnarly, found fame with a great gift, burned brightly for a relatively brief time and then died from drug or alcohol abuse — has been told so many times that the tragic after-pall has seriously faded. How many times can we go there? Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Williams, Brian Jones, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Charlie “Bird” Parker, Edith Piaf, Bix Beiderbecke…a story as old as the culture of recreational drugs and “yeah, man” indulgence itself.