Jewish Actress Perfectly Depicts Amy Winehouse in Disappointing ‘Back to Black”

May 21, 2024

“Mazel Tov,” Marisa Abela’s Amy Winehouse jokes to her boyfriend, Blake, pretending she is pregnant with his baby in a humorous moment in “Back to Black,” the new biopic about the late British singer.

Abela dons a star of David necklace as Winehouse did; some of her family membersare seen wearing yarmulkes and singing Hebrew songs.

Her nan (grandmother) asks if the guy she is dating is Jewish, and she says he likely isn’t because he has tattoos. She wonders why Amy can’t date music manager Nick Shymansky, but she says he isn’t her type.

Why are some people able to construct an amazing life and then be self-destructive? It’s a tough question. Winehouse was famous for her smoky jazz voice, her beehive hairdo, and winning seven Grammy Awards, with unbelievable songs like “Back to Black” and “Rehab.” When she died in July of 2011 of alcohol toxicity, she joined Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin among famed musical artists who perished at 27.

Abela, who is Jewish, and took vocal lessons to be able to sing like Winehouse, should get nominated for an Oscar. The scenes in which Abela, who starred in the HBO hit “Industry,” sings, are all excellent she is impressive in channeling Winehouse is quite a feat.

But there are a number of problems here.

If you’ve seen the Oscar-winning  2015 documentary “Amy,” you know much is left out. There’s nothing about her struggle to deal with fame, which she said might make her go mad? (In the the documentary, her bodyguard, Andrew Morris, says the night before he found her body, she told him she’d give back her vocal talent if it meant she could walk down the street without getting hassled.) Or her relationship with her father, who she felt wasn’t around to discipline her when she needed it. Or her bulimia, which her mother admits she didn’t properly assess because when her 15-year-old daughter told she would eat whatever she wanted and would throw up, rather than taking her daughter to a doctor, thought it would “pass.”

It also omits her father telling her she didn’t need to go to rehab, which is literally in the lyrics of the hit song? There’s also the idea that financial considerations may have trumped those of her health. What about the fact that her husband got her into cocaine and heroin and she nearly died of an overdose from it? None of these elements are dealt with in the film in any meaningful fashion.

Ultimately, everyone is responsible for their own actions, but to put such little blame on others serves to dilute the film.

Eddie Marsan is a great actor but in playing her father, Mitch.

Jack O’Connell does a fine job as Blake, who no longer wants to be married to her when he gets out of jail. He is shown in too kind a light. Winehouse’s attitude with reporters, is also not addressed.

The movie fails to show the gravity of addiction and the ending isn’t satisfactory. We don’t see enough of her struggles in the film.

Her own song lyrics proclaim: “Love is a losing game/One I wish I never played. Oh what a mess we made…”

With all of that said, this is the kind of movie that rides on the lead and Abela is so good the issues with the film are less prominent than they would otherwise be, but the ending of the film borders on criminal.

It’s hard to look at this depiction of Winehouse as anything other than a glass half full, though the film leaves some of it empty when there was more than enough to pour on. Hopefully, some viewers learn the dangers of toxic relationships and substances and enjoy Abela’s star turn.

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