In “Back to Black”, Marisa Abela bursts onto the screen as Amy Winehouse in a questionable fiction

Yes, Amy Winehouse was unique, in every way. And this rebellious artist who put so much of herself into her songs is irreplaceable, that’s indisputable. Now you’ll have to relax a little if you plan to see this film. Because it’s not a documentary – Asif Kapadia has already done the job in the fantastic Amy, released in 2015, and won numerous awards, including the Oscar for best documentary.

More than a biopic, Back to Black, in theaters Wednesday April 24, is to be approached rather as a love story inspired by that, eminently destructive, tumultuous and publicized, of Amy Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil, married in 2007 (and from whom she divorced in 2009 at his request to him). Because this is the angle that director Sam Taylor-Johnson chose to tell the story of the English superstar with a gravelly voice, who died prematurely in 2011 at the age of 27.

In the film we discover an Amy Winehouse barely out of adolescence, still shy, in a Jewish family in north London. A family in which we love jazz, especially his beloved grandmother Cynthia, who was a singer – her model of style and her “everything icon” –, and his father Mitch, a taxi driver who likes to hum Fly Me To The Moon in Sinatra’s version.

The real Amy, her incredible charisma, her unique voice, her sincere writing, both cash and on edge, her attitude, her passion, her humor, her zaniness: it took guts to dare to play her. The promising Marisa Abela, 27, already spotted across the Channel in the series Industry, is much more convincing than in the trailer.

She bursts onto the screen and does an absolutely remarkable job, including on the microphone: in addition to the cockney accent required to play the Londoner, she herself performs all the songs in the film, from Stronger Than Me, has Rehab Passing by Back to Black, a real tour de force! Certainly, it is less biting and electrifying than the original. But because we discover her in Amy at a very young age and follow her development, including her physical transformation (sauerkraut and strong retro eyeliner, tattoos, thinness, sexy outfits), we quickly get caught up in the game and we believes in it.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy on the youth of John Lennon and Fifty Shades of grey) says he wanted to make this film from Amy’s point of view. Marisa Abela therefore lends her features to Amy the fiery and vulnerable lover, but much less to Amy the big mouth with a strong character. We briefly see her uncompromising and combative side, particularly with representatives of the recording industry – she repeats to her first manager that she is not a Spice Girl, and that she aspires neither to fame nor to money – but we hardly see his work and his professional standards. Obviously, that’s not what the film is about.

However, we understand well how his second album, the triumphant Back to Black at the 5 Grammy Awards, was fueled by his toxic love affair with Blake. “I need to live my songs”she says in a scene in the film.

Her ex and her father spared by the director

Sam Taylor-Johnson skillfully portrays love at first sight and the intoxication of a budding love. The meeting scene of the two lovebirds, who we feel mutually magnetized, is particularly delectable. However, whether it’s the love of your life or your father Mitch, you have to arm yourself with a good dose of amnesia and forget everything negative you know or think you know about them. . The two survivors of this mess, whom Asif Kapadia’s documentary overwhelmed and revealed as vile opportunists, are in fact particularly spared by Sam Taylor-Johnson’s film.

Amy Winehouse’s father, who was absent for a long time and returned to her life once she became successful, is played in Back to Black by the excellent Eddie Marsan, who makes him eminently sympathetic. A loving father, overwhelmed by his daughter’s addictions, who suddenly became the most famous singer on earth.

For his part, Jack O’Connell, who lends his features to Blake, makes him a charming bad boy, who, although he introduces Amy to hard drugs, turns out to be almost more reasonable than the one whose demons he seems to have awakened . “Hard drugs, scum drugs”, she tells him shortly after their meeting, when he offers her drugs. “I thought you were rock’n’roll”, he is surprised. “I am jazz”, Amy replies. Alas, she soon follows him headfirst into his addictions.

A very questionable theory of the fall

The director shows a young woman consumed by passion, consumed by alcohol and drugs, weakened by eating disorders, and the rapid decline that follows. But she spares us the last erratic concerts where Amy, totally drunk, went so far as to forget the words and the names of her musicians. We are grateful to him. Because no one has forgotten how much voyeurism contributed to her downfall, delivered as food to the tabloid press and the paparazzi.

However, this is another theory that Sam Taylor Johnson develops between the lines, repeatedly throughout the film, and until the final scene. That of a woman who wanted above all to be a mother and who was undermined, broken and finished by the absence of childbirth.

Deciding to show a loving Amy devoured by her passion and damaged by her addictions is a legitimate choice. Rewriting the story to minimize the role of his father and his lover in his descent into hell is more questionable. But to claim that her unfulfilled desire for a child was the main torment that got the better of her is a red line that we will not cross with the director. For the rest, let’s not deny it, we had a good time in the company of this fictional Amy. To get closer to the real Amy, refer to her songs and Asif Kapadia’s documentary.

The sheet

Gender : Biopic
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Actors: Marisa Abela, Jack O’Connell, Eddie Marsan
Duration : 2h02
Exit :
April 24 2024
Distributer :
Synopsis: Back to Black traces the life and music of Amy Winehouse, through the creation of one of the most iconic albums of our time, inspired by her passionate and tormented love story with Blake Fielder-Civil.

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