First, I’d like to say that I had no idea that the movie would be released this month nor this past weekend. I rushed home from work then right to the theater (thanks to SEPTA and the goofiest of traffic problems for almost causing me to miss the beginning of the film) to see the much publicized Jimi Hendrix biopic. As a fan of Jimi Hendrix and Andre Benjamin (Andre 3000 for the Outkast fans), I had very high expectations. The problem with many biopics is that the main characters are often glamorized but their true stories, what makes them human and relatable, are often brushed to the side while whats perceived to be great and non threatening to their legacies are given focus. Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Taylor Hackford’s Ray are some of my favorites because their stories exhibits honesty, you witness the evolution of these individuals via their lowest points which gives wind to their eventual success.
Jimi: All Is By My Side focuses on Hendrix’s first year in London before he records his first album with The Experience. The film does an excellent job as a period piece. As an African American living in the United States, I’m well aware of the civil rights movement and most of the events that occurred during that tumultuous period but I was ignorant to the racial turmoil that happened in Great Britain during the 1960’s. There was a scene that featured an old black and white image of a door spray painted with the words “Keep Britain White” as well as mentioning albeit briefly a protest in the name of murdered Antiguan Kelso Cochrane. There’s a new world where Jimi has a freedom to create more than just music, a chance to be bigger than he ever imagined. There are moments in the film where we see Hendrix facing inner demons, the challenges of a demanding music industry but it seems there’s a lot of attention thrust upon his relationships with women.
Within this universe, there’s Linda Keith (Imogen Poots), the then girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards who helped Jimi connect the dots early in his career after watching him perform at the Cheetah Club. She brings in Chas Chandler (Andrew Buckley) former member of the Animals to manage, young Jimi’s career. Their strong relationship that never truly bloomed romantically became strained once Jimi began his turbulent involvement with Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell). Jimi seems to get lost in a world of sex drugs and rock and roll but it all adds to his mythos. One of my favorite scenes in the movie involved a debate between Jimi and Michael X (Adrian Lester) about the importance of cultural identity. Jimi was more into universal love and embracing everyone much to the chagrin of Michael X’s black supremacist ideology. Another great scene comes after Jimi asks Eric Clapton (Danny McColgan) to jam with his band and totally steals the show and forces him to run off stage in disbelief. Also, last but not least there’s a glimpse inside the creation of Jimi’s first group with Noel Redding (Oliver Bennett) and Mitch Mitchell (Tony Dunlea).
Jimi: All is By My Side is an interesting film. A good movie though not as groundbreaking as I’d like it to be, it still has awesome moments. For one, I’d like to see more of Andre Benjamin on screen (and a SOLO album while we’re at it), I feel like he’s an incredible talent and has much more to offer. What i disliked the most is be the exclusion of Jimi’s original compositions from the film (allegedly The Hendrix Estate said “Nah”). I felt that John Ridley did a excellent job with the direction although I wish there was more of a focus on the music and less on the love stories, it still maintains an essence of Jimi which is what’s most important.