Biopics walk a fine line

Meaningful adaptations of iconic lives are lost in a sea of greed-driven cinema

The upcoming Amy Winehouse biopic questionable.

It seems Hollywood has not learned anything from critiques on Blonde, the long-awaited and heavily panned Marilyn Monroe biopic that debuted last year, as they venture on to the next femmefatale: Amy Winehouse. 

With photos leaking of Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of the iconic artist’s life, Back in Black, one must wonder how many more poorly-intentioned fictionalized biopics audiences will endure before the genre becomes irredeemably oversaturated. The answer is we’re already there. 

This isn’t to say nothing meaningful could come from a film of Amy Winehouse’ life, but it’s doubtful considering she was an artist whose struggles largely circled the drain. Now she’s being brought back from the dead for profit.

The oversaturation of the industry coupled with the strive to cycle history in theatrical takes has created a genre dedicated to telling the stories of celebrities who have captivated the world’s curiosity in their prime. 

When done right like Bohemian Raphsody, they can come into fruition in a complex and clever undertaking of an icon, but they’re easily done wrong. 

When that happens, stories are skewed, greed is exposed, and family is left unsatisfied. 

We saw from Elvis how an abuser’s story can be told in the limelight with little more than adoration with a sprinkle of addiction. Blonde showed us how the tale of one of the most interesting women to take hold of the public eye can be boiled down to a performative and fetishizing account of the feminine struggle. Then, with Nina, we saw how poor casting can turn a film about an icon into a watery adaptation that satisfies no one. 

When it comes to Winehouse, a powerful documentary already exists—two if you count the one her father had made after feeling he was shown in a poor light. Bringing back the story of her life is clearly motivated by industry officials wanting another bite of the profit.

Winehouse was a unique and tumultuous woman whose struggles powerfully informed her art. Those who idolize her and her music are likely aware a film of such nature would not do right by her legacy—if doing right by her legacy is even Hollywood’s intention.

Only thoughtful reappraisals of the deceased can end in fruitful cinema. The urge to reap profit from stories already told is one filmmakers ought to avoid. 


biopics, Movies, Music

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