Title: Jimi: All Is By My Side
Director: John Ridley
Writer: John Ridley
Cast: Andre Benjamin, Hayley Atwell, Imogen Poots, Ruth Negga
Running time: 116 min, Rated R (Language, sexual references, drug content)
Special Features: Music by Waddy, Lyrics by Danny (interview with Waddy Wachtel and producer Danny Bramson); Theatrical Trailer
Available January 13, 2015
Andre Benjamin stars as Jimi Hendrix as he struggles with finding his sound and forming his band in London from 1966-1967, before his infamous Monterey Pop festival performance in the US. Imogen Poots portrays Linda Keith, Keith Richard’s then girlfriend and London scenester who claims to have discovered Jimi, and convinces Chas Chandler (Andrew Buckley), the Animals bassist to become Jimi’s manager. Haley Atwell (Captain America; Agent Carter) portrays Kathy Etchingham, Jimi’s devoted girlfriend. Though he has his hardships with poverty, racism, jealous established rockers and experimenting with various drugs, he seems to take it all in stride.
Jimi meets and interacts with various famous rockers throughout the film. There’s a scene where he shows up Eric Clapton during a performance, which makes Clapton storm off stage. Did it actually happen? It was still kind of cool even if it didn’t. The best part was when The Jimi Hendrix Experience was performing at the same venue as the Beatles, who were there to promote St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which was just released 3 days prior. Jimi and the band perform the title song after just learning it in the dressing room minutes before going on stage. If they focused more on how Jimi blows away established musicians, it would’ve made for a much interesting film. Yes Jimi did drugs and drank and maybe or didn’t beat the ever living crap out of Kathy with a phone receiver, but watching him kind of flitter into stardom makes for a boring film. He calls his dad collect from London, and gets sad when his dad tells him to write him a letter next time. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Jimi? Maybe it’s because I’m a bill paying adult, but I’d be pissed off if my long estranged kid called me collect from Europe also.
The Good: For being 10+ years older than the real Jimi Hendrix, Andre Benjamin really pulls off the likeness. He really worked his ass off with the speaking voice and the stage persona. The costumes and hair were also quite fun.
The Bad: Sloooowww. The thing about biopics is that most of the time you already know what’s going to happen. This film takes place before Hendrix went mainstream, and beginning stories usually aren’t that interesting. As a fan and from what I already know about Jimi Hendrix, this film is maybe 20-40% historically accurate. No subtitles for the hearing impaired. Sometimes Andre does his soft spoken Hendrix so well I couldn’t hear what he said a few times.
A disappointing part about this film is that they couldn’t get the rights to any of his original songs. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was known for their covers, but it would’ve made a better film if they could throw us a bone. The ending was rather dull, and they didn’t provide any of the viewers with a “what happened next” title cards. Not everyone can be a fan; don’t alienate your audience by leaving them hanging.
Total Rating: C+
Reviewed by: JM Willis