Archive for the ‘Sam Taylor-Johnson’ Category

This is for Camden Town

Back to Black

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson

Cast: Marisa Abela, Jack O’Connell, Eddie Marsan, Lesley Manville, Bronson Webb, Sam Buchanan

Running time: 2 hours and 2 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

UIP Universal release – Film Preview – Suncoast – Thank to UIP Pictures for the invite to the Preview.

Contemporary biopics are difficult to pull off successfully. Often the artist or pop star is still fresh in the collective cultural memory and the British jazz and soul singer Amy Winehouse is no exception.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) does a sterling job of creating a contemporary cinematic biopic of Amy Winehouse, the legendary and hugely talented singer who become a music sensation with such songs as Rehab, Back to Black and Love is a losing Game in her latest film Back to Black starring British actress Marisa Abela in the title role opposite a superb Jack O’Connell (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Ferrari, Unbroken) as Amy’s low life drug addict boyfriend Blake who proves to be the pop singer’s downfall.

Marisa Abela stars as Amy Winehouse in director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s BACK TO BLACK, a Focus Features release. Credit : Courtesy of Dean Rogers/Focus Features

Set almost entirely in North London, Back to Black has a great supporting cast including Oscar nominee Lesley Manville (The Phantom Thread) as her grandmother Cynthia and Eddie Marsan (Wrath of Man, The Gentleman) as her devoting father Mitch Winehouse.

As Amy’s career takes off thanks to her music manager Nick Shymansky played by Sam Buchanan, the singer’s talent is offset by her unbridled alcoholism and her refusal to play by the rules of traditional music marketing, which could have made her into a superstar.

Marisa Abela stars as Amy Winehouse in director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s BACK TO BLACK, a Focus Features release. Credit : Courtesy of Dean Rogers/Focus Features

At the heart of Back to Black, in which director Sam Taylor-Johnson emphasizes is the immense talent that Amy Winehouse had, whose voice was unbelievable and her soulful husky songs would lead her to win a Grammy Award in 2008 for Best Female Pop Vocal performance.

(L to R) Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse and Jack O’Connell as Blake Fielder-Civil in director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s BACK TO BLACK, a Focus Features release. Credit : Courtesy of Dean Rogers/Focus Features

Both Marisa Abela and Jack O’Connell are brilliant as the tortured toxic couple Amy and Blake whose crazy drug fuelled romance and brief marriage echoed such similar tragic partnerships as Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love and Sex Pistols anarchist frontman Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.

Back to Black could have been edited in parts, yet the film is saved by Amy Winehouse’s unforgettable music which makes Back to Black worth seeing especially if you are a big fan. Amy’s famous response when she won the Grammy is “This is for Camden Town!”

Unfortunately Amy Winehouse joined the 27 club like Kurt Cobain but her music is what endures and lives on like a flash of brilliance amid the murky years of the early 2000’s in which the director paints London as a dreary city filled with smoky pubs and hardworking North Londoners amidst a British music scene which was recovering from the stupendous Spice Girls hype of the late 1990’s.

As musical biopics go this film is worth watching as a tale about a musical genius whose talent was decimated by her unbridled addiction. The best line in Back to Black is when the police arrest a stark naked Blake, Amy’s husband and asks if there are any drugs in the house? Blake replies “No, we have taken them all.”

Back to Black gets a solid rating of 8 out of 10 and is a commendable musical film from Focus Features who generally never deliver poor quality. Highly recommended viewing.

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