On paper it sounds like a great idea – a Jimi Hendrix biopic starring Andre Benjamin, one of the members of hip-hop group, OutKast. And having avoided any of the talk around the film, it was one I’d been looking forward to for some time. Unfortunately, Benjamin’s generally convincing performance isn’t enough to save Jimi: All Is by My Side from a tepid script, bland direction, and the total absence of any Hendrix music. This isn’t a bad movie, but unfortunately it isn’t a particularly interesting one either.
The entirety of the narrative covers what many viewers would expect to be summarised in Act 1 – Hendrix’s time in London in 1966 and 1967, leading up to the release of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s first album, Are You Experienced. Beyond this, there’s little to discuss – the film has a lack of narrative bearing that makes it quite difficult for the viewer to trace where things are at. Has Hendrix released an album? Is he famous yet? Occasional moments of insight are crowbarred in, like when Hendrix phones his father in the US to tell him he’s moved to London. His father is a bastard… Hendrix is sad… This box is henceforth considered ticked. And why, instead of speaking in sentences like all human beings do, does he only mumble mantras and pseudo-profound ponderings?
The direction of the film is a little flat, coming off as something closer to a fairly decent telemovie than a feature film. And paradoxically enough, there is a jarring lack of rhythm to the editing. Shots run too long or are too short, and relationships and interactions between characters seem disjointed, as though critical scenes have ended up on the cutting room floor.
As mentioned, Benjamin does a decent job capturing Hendrix. He looks like him, and he certainly sounds like him. But frankly, he’s given very little to do, and watching Benjamin attempt to squeeze as much energy as he can out of each scene becomes distracting. Most of the cast are decent, but many of the more significant historical figures represented are far enough off the mark that surtitles are required to identify who they are (e.g. Keith Richards, Eric Clapton).
All this could be overlooked if it weren’t for the disappointing revelation that will wash over the viewer in the final scene. No – there will not be any Hendrix music in this movie.
Subsequent to this review, Kathy Etchingham, whose relationship with Hendrix is depicted within the film, contacted us to advise that the film is also rife with historical accuracies and offensive depictions. Her review can be found here.
A capsule review from the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival.