Better than expected (but my expectations were low): Back to Black reviewed

When the trailer for Sam Taylor-Johnson’s biopic of Amy Winehouse, Back to Black, first landed, her fans were gracious. ‘This,’ they said, ‘is going to be terrific.’ I’m winding you up. They were horrified. It’s too soon, they said. It’s exploitative and trashes her legacy, they concluded, from having watched two minutes of footage. I can only say that, one, fanatical fans are like that whatever you do, and two, this is better than I expected (although my expectations were low). It does seem softened at the edges, and one can never forgive a falling-in-love montage set at London Zoo – ever – butI (mostly) didn’t cringe and it is

Madonna and the curious business of biopics

Reading that Madonna has decided to cancel the film about her life that she has been working on for the past two years, I felt a pang of sorrow. The biopic sounded like the biggest vanity project ever attempted – and thus promised to be an excellent ‘mock-watch’, as I’ve named the cinematic equivalent of the ‘hate-read’. In the specific case of biopics (always an easy thing to get wrong when one person imitates another, often with hilarious results), perhaps ‘sham-shaming’ is even better. Madonna was reported to be directing, producing and co-writing the film with the Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody, who has since moved on to the live-action Powerpuff

Ravishing, daring biopic of Emily Brontë: Emily reviewed

The life of Emily Brontë is an enduring object of fascination. So small, the life, so sparse, so limited. Yet it delivered those magnificent poems and Wuthering Heights. How could this be? Genius, I suppose, paired with a vivid interior life. But as neither of those are cinematic, Emily imagines what could have led her to write as she did. It’s a ‘speculative biopic’, and modern, but there’s no Billie Eilish on the soundtrack or breaking of the fourth wall or jokey intertitles or any of those larks, which is a mighty relief. Instead, it’s daring, and ravishing. If you’d asked me if Emily might have ever tried opium, or