Showing posts with label One Love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label One Love. Show all posts

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Musical Biopics!

[I review "Back to Black," the new biopic about Amy Winehouse, as well as "Bob Marley: One Love" and "Beautiful Rebel," the story of Gianna Nannini, a rock star you have probably never heard of]

 Back to Black (2024)

The life and career of singer, Amy Winehouse.

Sadly, the life of Amy Winehouse was short.  She is a member of the 27 Club, dying too soon from alcohol poisoning.

This biopic follows Amy (Marisa Abela) from her adolescence, growing up in a Jewish family, with her father Mitch (Eddie Marsan) and her grandmother, Cynthia (Lesley Manville) aka Nan who herself had been a singer - to Amy's untimely death at 27. Though she had some early critical and commercial success in the U.K. with her expressive jazz, soul, blues and reggae vocals, it was when she wrote her album "Back to Black" that she found international acclaim.  In the meantime, she met the love of her life (more like an obsession), Blake Fielder-Civil (Jack O'Connell), and it was a volatile love affair.  Blake was into cocaine and Amy disapproved but she had her own issues with alcohol and bulimia and possibly mental illness. It was when he left her and her beloved grandmother died, that Amy was inspired to write that second album, "Back to Black." It was a black time. That album was one of the best-selling albums in UK history and in 2008 she won five Grammys, tying the then record for most wins by a female artist in a single night and becoming the first British woman to win five Grammys.  She and Blake reconciled and got married but after he went to jail and then wanted a divorce, Amy fell further into alcoholism and drug addiction, and despite a stint in rehab, she relapsed and died of alcohol poisoning at 27.

Though the film, written by Matt Greenhalgh and directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, covers all of that, there are no real earth-shattering revelations here. Interestingly, Amy's father, Mitch, who was a controversial figure in her life comes off as benign and seems to get a pass, and the film doesn't really offer much in the way of why Amy abused alcohol and drugs and died young, though there is an implication that her husband, Blake, wasn't much help to her (he was kind of a bad guy - he introduced her to crack). The film also implies that Amy relapsed when she found out Blake's girlfriend had a baby because, despite her success, Amy just wanted to be a wife and mother.  

We will never know whether that is true or not or what led Amy to drink herself to death, but what makes this film worth seeing is the Oscar-worthy performance by Abela. From the moment the camera sees her, she lights up the screen and you believe she is Amy.  She channels Amy from her beehive hairdo and tattoos to her singing, and believe it or not, Abela has said she didn't really think she could sing.  And the music throughout is wonderful.

Is this the defining story of Amy Winehouse?  Probably not, but it's an old-fashioned linear biopic, a small film with huge impact, a good story with great performances.  It's my kind of film and thank you to the British film industry for continuing to make these kinds of films and not completely pandering to fans of superheroes, horror and epics.  They keep putting out serious films for serious fans like me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a tour de force performance by Marisa Abela that is not to be missed.  We will be seeing more of her. (In theatres)

Bob Marley: One Love (2024)

An homage to Bob Marley.

Watching this movie, I realized that as much as I enjoyed Bob Marley's music, I didn't really know that much about his life except that he died young.  Sadly, this movie doesn't really reveal that much about the man or his life.  I don't want to say it's a puff piece, but it is clearly an homage.  

The film itself is also confusing at times, telling his story in short flashbacks that are actually distracting and don't do much to enlighten about how Bob became famous and, if you don't know much about Rastafari or Jamaican history, it can be confusing.  

But this is what I got - In 1976 Bob, played by Kingsley Ben-Adir, is already a star in Jamaica and wants to put on a concert called Smile Jamaica to promote peace because various factions are at war.  But as he prepares for the concert, he and his wife, Rita (Lashana Lynch), and Bob's manager are shot.  Though they recover and the concert goes on, Bob sends Rita and the children to the U.S. to stay with his Mom (never explained why that happened), while he goes to London to record an album, which turns out to be "Exodus," inspired by the film of the same name.  The album is a hit and popularizes reggae and brings the Rastafari movement to the forefront. Bob goes on tour, enjoys his fame but it is short-lived.  He develops skin cancer and dies in 1981 at the age of 36.

Written by Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, Zac Baylin, and Reinaldo Marcus Green and directed by Green, the film feels more like a moment in time  than a biopic. The story would have benefited from a more old-fashioned linear treatment.  It all just never really went anywhere nor managed much drama or had a point of view. Though the performance by Ben-Adir was believable, I didn't feel the film enlightened us much about the man.  Though there are hints about his peccadillos, as in philandering, nothing much is made of that or anything else, other than the guy was a good guy, and so good, he even forgave the guys who shot him! Lynch as Marley's wife, Rita, had little to do. Let's just say that the highlight of this film was the music.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a Marley fan and like reggae music, you might enjoy this, but in general, the film was a disappointment. I came away from the film still not knowing much more about him than I already knew. (For rent on Amazon Prime. If you still want to watch it, wait until it streams somewhere for free). 

Beautiful Rebel (2024)

Meet Gianna Nannini, the most famous rock star you have never heard of!

Well, she is famous in Europe, anyway.

Directed by Cinzia TH Torrini, this is the story of what Gianna Nannini (Letizia Toni) went through to make it as a rock star in Italy. It's the typical story of a father who thought it was more appropriate for his daughter to play tennis than write and sing, but isn't that how many of our greats get going? They rebel. It's the old "I'll show you" thing.

Nannini went off on her own with no family support and endured setbacks and humiliations until she found her voice and industry support. She was a provocateur with such songs as "Death by Self-Inflicted Abortion." 

Nannini scored her first domestic hit in 1979 with the single "America" and the album "California," which became a success in several European countries. Her international breakthrough happened in 1984 with the release of her sixth album, "Puzzle," which peaked in the top 10 in the Italian, German, Austrian and Swiss charts.  

She was also sexually fluid, something not supported in the Italy of the 1980's, but when she had a mental breakdown, her family rallied round, she overcame that, too, and came back even stronger, later performing with Sting, Bocelli and others.  The film ends with actual performance footage of Nannini.

Brando is effective as Nannini and the story is dramatic and engaging, though it moves fast through her life and career and you might have some "Huh?" moments. It's an old-fashioned linear biopic, and you know by now, I like those, and, though it tries to cover too much ground without going too deep, it's an introduction to Nannini who deserves to be introduced.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sometimes poignant story of living life on one's own terms and making it. If you love music, expand your horizons into this world of European rock and meet Gianna Nannini. (In Italian with English subtitles - Netflix)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

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And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critics Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!