I went to see AMY yesterday.
I knew I wanted to see this movie from the moment I became aware of its existence. I knew I would love it. I knew I would leave the theatre angry, frustrated, sad, and smiling.
There wasn’t really anything in the movie that I didn’t already know; no secret confessions; no deep, dark revelations; no surprises. And I’m not anywhere near to being what you would call an obsessed, huge, or even big fan of Amy Winehouse.
There it is: I’m just some average music lover who appreciated the genius of a young singer-songwriter — and I knew all about her.
What is it about us, as a people, that makes us think we have any right to know everything there is to know about celebrities? Why do we build people up to impossible heights, making it equally impossible for them to lead any sort of normal life, and then revel in their inevitable downfall? Listen, I know she had problems, I know she was a substance abuser, I know she had an eating disorder. I know that the general public is not directly responsible for her death, but come on! Truly, I think we all need to take a good hard look at the way we treat the artists we love: actors, musicians, writers. We think someone does a great job, is fantastic at what they do; we admire their artistry, their talent, their gift. Then we harangue and harass them, chasing them down, following their every move, feeling like we deserve to be a part of their lives. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing photos of my favourite artists. But I like to see what they choose to share with us. I don’t like, nor do I or anyone else need to see celeb x caught in an illicit lip-lock with celeb y after midnight in some swanky club, or celeb z stumbling to the curb having been tossed out of a neighbourhood burger joint. It’s none of my business. It’s none of your business. It’s certainly not the business of 142 photographers. We have created this mess. Every living soul has a derailment or two or twenty-eight over the course of their lifetime; we don’t need to try and make every single one of them into a massive train wreck.
Look, I know the drill: the person who needs help has to want the help. You can’t make someone go to rehab and expect that it will stick at all if they don’t want to be there in the first place; but you sure as hell aren’t helping them any by telling them they’re fine and don’t need to go. Amy Winehouse was possessed of a tortured soul. Her struggles gave her the foundation for her artistic expression. She wrote what she lived and I don’t doubt that she relived those experiences every time she breathed life into them on the stage. She was a poet. She was brilliant; she was young; she was scared; she was in over her head. She was sweet; she was funny; she was smart. She was like a firework: we hear the sizzle, the whoosh, the lead-up; then there’s this awe inducing flash, an explosion of colour and light interrupted by the bang/pop that we know came first but just couldn’t keep up; then gone — the absence of the light and colour so stark that you can almost feel it; and we’re left with a lingering puff of smoke dissipating into the atmosphere much faster than we would like.
This movie. I grinned. I chuckled. I grooved. I clenched my jaw. I shook my head. I laughed out loud. I smiled a lot. I cried. I sang. I was prepared for all of the feelings. Some of it was hard to watch, even though I knew what was happening. I had seen it on the news, after all. Some of it was fantastic, simply mesmerizing. I was surprised by what triggered my tears: Tony Bennett. Man, I love this movie.
I do miss you, Amy Winehouse. I would have loved to hear (and feel) whatever else you might have had in store for us.