Kyle McMahon

Kyle McMahon

Kyle McMahon is a Millennial with a mission to help others on their road to self improvement. A pop culture junkie, he's the host of Pop Culture...Full Bio


REVIEW: Back To Black - Marisa Abela Shines as Amy Winehouse in Biopic

Back To Black Review - Marisa Abela shines as Amy Winehouse

Photo: Focus Features

MOVIE REVIEW: Back To Black - Marisa Abela Shines as Amy Winehouse in Gritty, Musical Biopic

As hard as the mission seemed, musical biopic Back To Black sets out to capture the whirlwind that was Amy Winehouse's brief, tumultuous life. Fueled by her undeniable talent and an incredible voice that had the power to rip your heart apart, Winehouse became a global phenomenon with her breakout album of the same name. Back To Black does a great job of packing a lot of life in a 90 minute movie.

From Taron Egerton in Rocketman to Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, ultimately a biopic rises and falls based upon the performance of the leads. Luckily, Marisa Abela brings both grit and vulnerability to her performance as Amy Winehouse, bouncing effortlessly from sweet conversations with her beloved Grandmother (Lesley Manville) to explosive heartbreaks with her partner Blake (Jack O'Connell). In fact, Abela, O'Connell, Manville and Eddie Marsan (playing Winehouse's father Mitch), elevate the film from a paint by numbers affair to a powerful, intimate look at an explosive musical figure whose candle burned out far too soon.

You May Be Interested In: Amy Winehouse, In Her Words.

Marisa Abela delivers a valiant and layered performance, channeling Winehouse's signature beehive hair, bold eyeliner and swagger. She even tackles the iconic vocals of Winehouse herself, though inevitably comparisons to the inimitable original arise. The film truly shines when showcasing Winehouse's musical brilliance, with electrifying recreations of live performances and the creative process behind iconic tracks like "Rehab" and "You Know I'm No Good." Even above the performances, the Back To Black soundtrack is undeniably the film's strongest element, a potent reminder of Winehouse's enduring musical legacy.

Back To Black movie review

Photo: Focus Films

While many biopics tend to completely gloss over the negatives and unpleasant parts of their subject lives, Back To Black doesn't completely whitewash the very public and well documented turmoils of Amy's life, but it certainly doesn't spend much time on them. While it's obvious from news reports, interviews and police reports from the time that Amy and Blake's love bombing explosive lust was extremely toxic, it's glossed over a bit in the film. Similarly, her real life addiction to hard drugs are practically ignored in the film. While these may not be highlights of Amy's life, they are certainly the reality - which can often present a problem when the estate of a public figure is involved in the creation of a project like this. As people, we are unable to learn from the mistakes of the past if we pretend that past didn't happen. Thankfully, however, it doesn't gloss over those problems completely.

Amy Winehouse Funko Pop

Photo: Funko

For casual fans, the film offers a nostalgic trip down memory lane with Winehouse's greatest hits serving as the backdrop to the story. Abela and the rest of the casts performances are commendable and the glimpses into the creative process behind the music are interesting. However, those seeking a nuanced and unflinching portrayal of Amy Winehouse's life will likely be a little bit disappointed. Documentaries like "Amy" (2015) or "Amy Winehouse: Back To Black" offer a more comprehensive and honest exploration of her story as she created the iconic album.

Ultimately, "Back To Black" is a highly enjoyable film with powerful performances set against the backdrop of an incredible album. Though it's a bit frustrating in its refusal to truly hit the lowest of the lows, it tells the Amy Winehouse story in a slickly produced, entertaining package. With Back To Black, we're left humming the familiar melodies, but the true power of the tragedy of her story remain a bit out of reach. Even so, it is still a must watch for even the casual fan of musical biopics or compelling dramas.


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