Back to Black (2024) Review

By Allison Rose   X Formly Known as Twitter
3 Min Read

Amy Winehouse was an incredible talent lost too soon to her demons.

Back to Black (2024) Review
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Amy Jade Winehouse dreamt of being a famous singer/songwriter and she had the talent to back it up.  With the love and support of her parents and "Nan" Cynthia, she pursued that dream until it eventually became a reality.  She was nominated for 6 Grammy Awards, winning five, and won a Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist. 

Unfortunately, along with her fame and fortune, which she supposedly didn't care about, came paparazzi, tabloids, a tumultuous marriage, and drug addiction.  After a stint in rehab and several months of sobriety, Amy Winehouse became a member of the "27 Club", a fictitious club made up of seemingly tortured, famous people who died when they were 27 years old.  Her cause of death was listed as alcohol poisoning.  This month, Focus Features is telling Amy's story in their new biopic, Back to Black.

Before she was ten years old, Amy Winehouse's (Marisa Abela; Industry) parents had separated.  Living with her mom and her older brother, Amy remained close to her father, Mitch (Eddie Marsan; The World's End).  She was also very close to her paternal grandmother, Cynthia (Leslie Manville; Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris), getting much of her music and style advice from Cynthia.  

Amy eventually got a record deal with Island Records and her first album titled Frank became a critical and commercial success in England.  Disillusioned with being a recording artist, Amy met Blake (Jack O'Connell; Unbroken) and the two eventually married setting off a dangerous relationship filled with drug addiction and violence.  Amy recorded a second album, Back to Black that brought her international fame, accolades, awards, the end of her marriage, and contributed to her untimely death.

Other than the music, the cast of Back to Black is the best thing about the film.  Abela is fantastic as Amy, and it is impressive to note that she did all her own singing rather than using one of Amy's vocal tracks.  Marsan and Manville are veteran actors who are excellent in their roles and O'Connell matches Abela's style well with decent chemistry between the two of them.  The rest of the cast is good, but Abela is so strong that it is often difficult to notice others on screen with her.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) is hit or miss with this project.  While she sometimes goes for close-up shots, especially during Amy's more vulnerable moments - i.e. When Blake tells her they can't be together, and he wants a divorce or when her Nan passes away - Taylor-Johnson throws the pacing off with unnecessary scenes.  The 2 hours and 2-minute run time moves slow, and it seems there were a few scenes that could have easily been left out like Amy and Blake at the zoo or Amy wandering through the streets at night while drunk.  Showing her drinking and then stumbling through the door to her home would have served the same purpose.

On the other hand, the music, whether it is Abela singing Winehouse's masterpieces or a record playing on a jukebox in an English pub, is wonderful. O'Connell as Blake has a fabulous moment lip-synching to the Shangri-Las' classic, The Leader of the Pack and it is one of the more memorable scenes in the film.  Music can always help set the tone and Taylor-Johnson picks an eclectic and retro array of songs to utilize this effect properly.

Amy Winehouse was an incredible talent who was lost too soon to her own demons and fans will delight in this retelling of her meteoric rise to fame.  However, for the layperson who may not be familiar with Winehouse's story, Back to Black isn't compelling enough to catch and keep their attention.

Grade: C

Directed By:
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 122 minutes
Distributed By: Focus Features

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For more information about Back to Black visit the FlickDirect Movie Database. For more reviews by Allison Rose please click here.

Back to Black images are courtesy of Focus Features. All Rights Reserved.

FlickDirect, Allison   Rose

Allison Rose, a Senior Correspondent and Critic at FlickDirect, is a dynamic presence in the entertainment industry with a communications degree from Hofstra University. She brings her film expertise to KRMS News/Talk 97.5 FM and broadcast television, and is recognized as a Tomatometer-Approved Critic. Her role as an adept event moderator in various entertainment industry forums underscores her versatility. Her affiliations with SEFCA, the Florida Film Critics Circle, and the Online Film Critics Society highlight her as an influential figure in film criticism and media.


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