By Darlene Donloe
To many Jimi Hendrix was and still is a rock ‘n roll god. How he came to claim his throne amongst other legends atop the music industry is told in the film, Jimi: All Is By My Side.
OutKast’s André Benjamin stars as the legendary musical icon in the biopic written and directed by Academy Award-winning writer/director John Ridley (12 Years A Slave).
Ridley has crafted a film that effectively captures the mood and feel of the 60s.
The film covers a year in Hendrix's life from 1966-67 when he was an unknown backup guitarist playing New York's Cheetah Club, hoping to make his mark in London's music scene through his Monterey Pop appearance when his career took off.
Hendrix, who liked to push his music to the limit, was a riddle during his short stint in the limelight. He was bright, but vague, talented, but conflicted. He wasn’t conflicted about his music. In that he was confident. It was how he was going to present himself to the world that seemed to pull at him. Well, that and his obviously tumultuous relationship with his father. Hendrix seemed, at times, to be a reluctant participant in his own success. As talented as he was, he initially refused to sing because he didn’t like his own voice. Once he did sing, he would often turn his back on the audience. His road to becoming a rock legend was short, but rocky.
Benjamin gives a stellar performance as Hendrix. He gives Hendrix, an introvert who floated amongst the clouds, a human persona.
What was surprisingly missing from the film was lots of music. Music drove Hendrix, it could have done the same with the film. It seems Ridley wanted a character study instead.
Benjamin delivers in the role. He is clicking on all cylinders as Hendrix. He has the voice, the cadence, the gait, the hair, the stride and the slow and deliberate repartee.
Hendrix was discovered by Linda Keith (Imogen Poots) while playing in New York’s Cheetah Club. Keith, who was Keith Richard’s girlfriend at the time, saw something in him that he didn’t see in himself. She saw a rock star!! Poots is exceptional in the role.
The film also delves into the relationship between Hendrix and Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell), a woman he meets in a pub, who quickly becomes his steady companion. Atwell is fierce as Etchingham.
This movie, presented in a slow and steady pace, is worth seeing. Fans on Hendrix will not be disappointed. Well, maybe they will because there isn’t a lot of music in the film. But, if they wanted to know the genius that was Hendrix, they will applaud as the credits roll.
The film also stars Ruth Negga, Andrew Buckley and Ashley Charles.
Jimi: All Is By My Side, currently in limited release, is RATED R for language, sexual references and drug content; Running time: 1 hr, 56 min.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Jimi: All Is By My Side gets an E (excellent).