mon 24/06/2024

Jimi: All Is By My Side | reviews, news & interviews

Jimi: All Is By My Side

Jimi: All Is By My Side

Andre Benjamin is early Jimi Hendrix in John Ridley's alluring biopic

Andre Benjamin and Imogen Poots light up Jimi: All Is By My Side

The Jimi Hendrix redux directed by John Ridley, Oscar-winning scriptwriter of 12 Years A Slave (and the underrated Undercover Brother, among others), was highly anticipated - especially as this take on the great guitarist’s life would not, apparently, feature any hits.

Although this sounded like a deliberate plan, one suspects Ridley was hampered by a perennial film budgeting problem: soundtracks cost a lot. So, no greatest hits but snippets of covers work perfectly well to tell the story of Jimi’s breakthrough year 1966-67 – with Jimi well portrayed by the telegenic, talented and relaxed Andre Benjamin (from Outkast), a musician who can also act.

As we go from NYC to London, Ridley implies Hendrix didn’t become great: he was always that way. The magic was waiting to be discovered – and this is where the women come in.

We see Hendrix in New York, struggling almost unaware of a bored audience at a lame nightclub. He’s spotted by Linda Keith (Imogen Poots), a well-connected English girl with a good ear and eye yet only recognized as Keith Richards’ girlfriend. Linda uses Richards’ connections to further Hendrix’s unique gifts. Chas Chandler (Andrew Buckley), The Animals’ ex-bassist, becomes Jimi’s manager and spends most of his time bemused by how to promote a jazz guitarist. Danger and love comes in the shape of Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell). The pushy, sexy redhead connects with Jimi in a way only they understand. (Etchingham isn’t keen on the film: few real people are ever happy with how they’re portrayed on the big screen.) Politics enters the frame when Jimi meets Michael X (Adrian Lester) who speaks radical truths about being a black man.

Poots, Chandler and Atwell are believable players in what seems like a fantasy biopic, looping around Benjamin’s Hendrix like real people circling a myth. Towards the end of the film, Jimi says he believes in all people and shows himself to be something of a higher being – a sense of universality that accounts at least somewhat for his genius. Here, Jimi’s personality seems from another, better world.

There’s a languid glossy quality to the production design – props, wardrobe, makeup, hair and set decoration are movie-perfect: was the past ever this pretty? Cinematographer Tim Fleming opts for funky angles, accentuating moments when the narrative doesn’t quite hang together. But if you only know Hendrix through his music, Jimi: All Is By My Side seems like an intriguing funhouse mirror. Did he beat Kathy with a phone handset? She says no. The film says yes. We’re perplexed but happy enough to follow the strand we know: Jimi played guitar.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Jimi: All Is By My Side

Ridley was hampered by a perennial film problem: soundtrack costs. There are no greatest hits here.


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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