As it turns out, the life of pop singer Amy Winehouse was even worse than it looked.

Ample evidence of this is clearly on display in the heartbreaking, but extremely well-made documentary "Amy." Director Asif Kapadia ("Senna") has access to plenty of videotaped material, from a teen Winehouse singing "Happy Birthday" to a grown Winehouse staggering about on a stage in front of thousands, obviously disoriented and refusing to sing.

Doubtless, Winehouse was a queen of bad decisions, but it's easy to see where she picked up the habit. Her mother knew Amy was bulimic from the time she was a teen, but did nothing about it. Her father was more interested in keeping her touring and earning money than in keeping her healthy. And her addict boyfriend only encouraged her bad habits.

Still, she might have had a chance if she hadn't become famous. The big eye-opener here is that Winehouse starts out as a jazz singer, and a good one at that, with a small niche following. When she moves into soulful pop, developing her retro-sex bomb slinky tattooed look, she becomes an instant sensation.

And basically, her fragile soul can't take the combination of paparazzi attention and financial pressure from those living off her. Her body weakened by years of abuse, by alcohol, by dope, gives in at the age of 27.

"I don't think I'm going to be at all famous," she told an interviewer at the age of 20, when she was singing jazz. "I don't think I can handle it. I'd probably go mad."

She was right.

Plenty of folks praise Winehouse in "Amy." But no one was there to save her. Perhaps it wasn't possible. But perhaps it was.



Rated R for language and drug material

Running time: 128 minutes

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