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ADVANCE: Jimi: All Is by My Side - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
ADVANCE: Jimi: All Is by My Side
Directing: C+
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B
Editing: C-
Music: C+

You would think a movie about Jimi Hendrix would at least have the soundtrack going for it. Nope! Anyone seeing this movie really should be warned beforehand: the Hendrix estate refused to loan any of the music rights. This means a movie about one of the most iconic American musicians of the late 20th century features precisely zero of his actual songs.

What's the point? Clearly there is some high expectation with Jimi: All Is by My Side, written and directed by John Ridley, who wrote the superb 12 Years a Slave. But after seeing his Hendrix biopic, one wonders if he bothered to show up in the editing room. Doesn't the director oversee all aspects of production?

It's been a long time since a film had editing this annoying, both visual and audio. Scenes with character dialogue overlapping each other, but in an almost anti-Altmanesque way that precludes compelling cinema. Shifting discombobulatingly back and forth between each line of a phone call, one in a room full of loud jamming musicians and one where there is silence. And worst of all, over and over, music that actually starts to sound great -- only to be abruptly cut to silence after only a few seconds.

Outkast's André Benjamin gives a solid performance as Jimi, the one bright spot in this movie -- and I mean "bright" in terms of commanding attention. Not that Jimi is portrayed as a particularly great man. He's seen at one point beating his girlfriend in the face with a telephone. He was a deeply flawed but clearly talented man, but this one scene turns a corner for him in this story. It's hard to root for him.

It takes a while to want to root for him, actually. This story tells of Hendrix's beginnings, and doesn't bother with his ending. Perhaps the movie is meant as foreshadowing that tragic end in it its entirety. John Ridley wants us to know that Hendrix was not a stable man, and Benjamin easily convinces us. He's usually not unhinged, however; he's almost exclusively mellow. Benjamin keeps a distinctively relaxed attitude in his cadence, even when Hendrix is annoyed.

The way this movie tells it, Hendrix rose to stardom due to a magical mixture of talent and chance. This was not a particularly ambitious man -- the ambition is left to Kieth Richards's girlfriend Linda (Imogen Poots), who discovers him playing a gig in New York. She befriends him, and brings a long line of different important people to see him play, and he takes a while to take it seriously.

The movie takes a while to get through all this, possibly the first third. I'm not sure we really need to spend so much time on it. Presumably we're meant to be getting to know who Jimi Hendrix is, but that process is undermined by widely misguided and distracting editing.

As the slow burn of Hendrix's ascent goes on, he moves through other women. We systematically meet the other players in his fate. There are a few scenes of Benjamin, as Hendrix, just jamming on his guitar. These are absorbing scenes, but they do far more to showcase André Benjamin's talents than to remind us of Jimi Hendrix as a rock god -- the one who, according to this movie, got up to jam with Eric Clapton and made Clapton so insecure he left the stage.

Ultimately, Jimi: All Is by My Side is a great opportunity squandered. The fatal flaw is the lack of any actual Jimi Hendrix music, the inclusion of which could have gone a long way to make up for the editing. As it is, however, even with Benjamin's impressive performance, the whole film is an exercise in futility.

André Benjamin is the one bright spot in JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE.

Overall: C+
1 comment or Leave a comment
fatpie42 From: fatpie42 Date: September 7th, 2014 11:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I could tell in the trailer that André Benjamin was knocking it out of the park with that performance. I'm glad that wasn't just smoke and mirrors. It's a pity about the movie though. Just that performance was making me quite keen to check this out.
1 comment or Leave a comment