Sunday, May 19, 2024

‘Back to Black’ brings Amy Winehouse story to big screen

May 15, 2024 – 3:12 AM PDT

British singer Amy Winehouse arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London July 23, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
British singer Amy Winehouse arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London July 23, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Director Sam Taylor-Johnson didn’t want her 2024 biographical drama film about the late British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse to be too similar to the 2015 Oscar-winning documentary by Asif Kapadia.

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“I felt like I had to make something very different to the documentary,” Taylor-Johnson told Reuters about her movie “Back to Black.”

“It had to feel like a different perspective, and I felt like the best perspective to give her was to actually allow her to tell her story through her music,” the British filmmaker added.

The movie, distributed by Focus Features, chronicles Winehouse’s upbringing in a Jewish family, her career, romances – and the addiction that would lead to her death.

The six-time Grammy-winning artist was known for blending elements of jazz, soul, and rhythm and blues.

While reviews of the film have been overwhelmingly negative from critics in the United Kingdom and Ireland so far, many believe that lead actor Marisa Abela, who portrays Winehouse, delivered a successful performance.

“There are moments when Abela disappears and Winehouse bursts on to the screen, like a magic eye picture blinked fleetingly into focus,” critic Wendy Ide of The Guardian wrote in her review.

“But the film is wildly uneven and prone to catastrophic misjudgments,” she added.

Her review is one of the many to criticize the movie on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, which has the film at a rotten rating of 38% so far.

However, the film’s UK and Ireland box office numbers did not reflect the negative reviews, as the film topped both box offices on its opening week.

More reviews will be added following the movie’s arrival in U.S. movie theaters on Friday.

Abela spent 12 months attempting to capture every aspect of Winehouse, but she knew she could never capture the “Rehab” singer completely.

“There are so many different versions of Amy, and it’s almost like, the more you know, the less you know, because she’s so huge and all-encompassing,” Abela said.

When Abela spoke to the people who were in Winehouse’s life, including her father, her friends, her co-workers and others, each person had a different opinion on the most important thing to portray about her.

Despite an array of input, Abela found a definitive connection to Winehouse by wearing her clothes.

“We actually managed to pull in some of Amy’s original clothes so Marisa would be wearing Amy’s clothes, so that level of detail was so important,” Taylor-Johnson said.

Reporting by Rollo Ross and Danielle Broadway; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis

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