Sunday, May 26News For London

Back to Black: Not Just Fans, Amy Winehouse Biopic Divides Critics as Well

(art by JCX/@jcxdesigns)

The new Amy Winehouse biopic premiered last night in Leicester Square, receiving lukewarm reviews from critics. While Marisa Abela’s performance as Winehouse was widely praised, many had issue with the script, as well as the portrayals of Winehouse’s father and ex-husband.

Reviews of the film varied but primarily leant in a negative direction, with The Daily Mail and The Evening Standard both giving it one-star reviews. In a two-star review The Independent called it a “sanitised biopic” and said the portrayal of Winehouse’s ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil is “a mix of Heathcliff, Sid Vicious and Mary bloody Poppins.” However director Sam Taylor-Johnson had previously stated that “We had to understand why Amy fell in love with him, so it wasn’t about making a one-dimensional villain”.

While many also commented on the flattering portrayal of Winehouse’s father Mitch Winehouse who was heavily criticised after the 2015 documentary ‘Amy’ which painted him in a rather negative light, yet Empire described the film as making him an “unquestioned hero”. 

Nonetheless some publications were far kinder about the controversial biopic, in a four-star review, The Guardian described it as an “extraordinary lead performance” from Marisa Abela and stated that it was director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s “best film to date”. Similarly The Hollywood Reporters, Leslie Felperin said “Back to Black is, like its heroine, flawed and fallible but frequently very affecting.”

Music Biopics on the Rise 

Back to Black comes at a time when music biopics are very much in fashion, with recent years seeing ones made about Elvis, Queen, Elton John and Bob Marley. It is also expected that biopics about Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan will be released in the near future. The Bob Marley biopic ‘One Love’ received many of the same complaints as Back to Black has in it’s initial reviews, with it also receiving a two-star review in The Standard and being described as “schmaltzy” and “highly sanitised”. However many of the recent biopics have done extremely well with Austin Butler winning many awards for his portrayal of Elvis  and the Queen biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ won four awards at the 2019 Oscars, making it the biggest winner that year. Despite varying success and critical reception of recent music biopics, it looks like the trend is set to continue for some time to come.