Sunday, May 26News For London

Why is Amy Winehouse Biopic Back to Black dividing fans?

(photo-Sowmya Singhdeo)

Back to Black will be the first biopic dedicated to Amy Winehouse but her admirers have certain fears about the representation of a singer who was exposed to exploitative media for most of her stardom.

Thirteen years after Amy Winehouse’s passing, the late multi-Grammy winner gets the biopic treatment with Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Back to Black which gears up for its premiere today (Monday) at Odeon Luxe, Leicester Square. With the musical drama eyeing an April 12 wide release, the movie follows the footsteps of Bob Marley: One Love as the next big music biopic of 2024.

The Camden native already had her life chronicled in Asif Kapadia’s Oscar-winning 2015 documentary Amy. But Back to Black, named in honour of Winehouse’s own song, will mark her first biopic. So, why are legions of Amy Winehouse fans disgruntled?

Odeon, Leicester Square gears up for the Back to Black world premiere.
(photo-Sowmya Singhdeo)

Ever since the trailers were released, online reactions were mixed with complaints ranging from the biopic’s timing to being “too soon” and the fears of turning the Rehab hitmaker’s tumultuous story into yet another sensationalist or exploitative music biopic. The trailer footage also offered a sneak peek into the toxic relationship between Winehouse (played by Industry star Marisa Abela) and longtime boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil (Jack O’ Connell).

To quote one of the tweets by X user Brigitte Krause, “I hope they tell HER story right, and it’s not just a retelling of her trauma, because she deserves better.”

Abela’s casting and the decision to not incorporate Winehouse’s original singing was also mired in controversy. “This is the worst Karaoke I’ve ever seen. Scrap it, just scrap it”, one of the Twitterati comments.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson who previously helmed the adolescent John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy in 2009, however, has been telling multiple media sources that she intends to present Winehouse’s story from her perspective with the paparazzi being the true antagonists.

“Noise will always be big about something like this, but nobody has really seen it yet and we’ve made it through Amy’s words, music, her perspective. Anything else would, yes, have been exploitative, but this retelling lacks tragic hindsight.” The director told The Times, addressing the pre-release hullaballoo.

Additionally, she feels that Kapadia’s documentary might have antagonised her father Mitch Winehouse (Eddie Marsan) and boyfriend but she wishes to show what were Winehouse’s feelings about them at different points of her life.

“People still have all their judgments, because it’s been very laid out. But this is a totally different perspective of Mitch as a parent, through Amy’s eyes. It’s, ‘For right or wrong, all the choices he makes, that’s just my dad.’”

As for leading lady Abela, the actress recently appeared on The Jonathan Ross Show, telling the critic that she worked hard to perfect her own singing skills to do Amy Winehouse justice.

To quote the actress, “For me when I got the job I wanted to learn to sing as much as I could because this was her chosen medium – this is her artform, this is how she expressed herself. It felt so odd to do all of this work and then come to open my mouth to sing and cut to a studio recording. I trained really hard, I trained for two hours a day for four months.”

Back to Black opens in the UK this Friday (April 12).