BACK TO BLACK – Review by T. J. Callahan

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Back to Black: “I ain’t no ‘effing’ Spice Girl.”

You want to remember Amy Winehouse with a smile, but it’s mostly with sadness. Such a talent and life wasted due to drugs and a highly addictive personality. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and star Marisa Abela try their best to help us smile for Amy Winehouse. And it works, in the new musical, drama biopic Back to Black.

While the 2015 Oscar winning documentary, Amy, was raw and revealing,Back to Black, named after Winehouse’s last album, is a sympathetic view of the tortured torch singer. The film follows Amy from 18 years old and dreaming of a career as a singer like her beloved grandmother to just before her death from alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 27 and on the verge of superstardom.

Told from Amy’s point of view, the singer says while she doesn’t write songs to be famous, she does need to “live” her songs…and that she did. The chance meeting of the love of her life, Blake, in a London pub is the spark that fueled her meteoric rise to the top of the charts. Amy Winehouse was the queen of break up songs long before Taylor Swift was a household name.

Abela did all her own singing in Back to Black effectively capturing Winehouse’s unique blend of jazz, soul, and rock. She was nothing short of amazing. There are solid performances from the wonderful character actor Eddie Marsan and the always emotive Lesley Manville, but without Abela’s ability to embody Winehouse impeccably, there would not be a successful film.

Winehouse wanted to be remembered for “just being me”. Back to Black does that, but in an airbrushed sort of way. Not all the wrinkles are shown. It’s an homage to the singer that would please her family and friends without digging out a bunch of tabloid trash. Back to Black is certainly a must see for fans.

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T. J. Callahan

Texas Radio Hall of Fame broadcaster, T.J. Callahan switched gears from traffic and news reporting as a member of the Marconi Award winning Hudson and Harrigan Show on KILT in Houston to directing you to the right movie theatre as the resident film critic for Houston Radio Platinum and 101 Gold , Southern New Mexico's favorite radio station. Since 2009, T.J. has exclusively critiqued premiering films on such stations as KRMD in Shreveport, La., KILT in Houston, WCKT in Sarasota, Fla., as well as on The Chris X Blayney Show on The Liberty Eagle Radio Network and The Sam Malone Show on KNTH in Houston. Entertaining and informative, T.J. gets right to the point and lets you know whether the latest epic is worth your time. Listen to her Friday and Saturdays on houstonradioplatinum.com and on Friday afternoons on the Leslie T. Travis Show on KVLC FM in Las Cruces. T.J. is also a proud member of the Critics Choice Association and the Houston Film Critics Society. She truly believes everything in life is one degree of Blazing Saddles.