Jimi: All Is By My Side – Review

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Starring: Andre Benjamin, Hayley Atwell, Imogen Poots
Written for the screen and directed by: John Ridley
Metacritic Score: 66
I
MDb Score: 5.5

Rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug content

The bio-pic: a movie based solely on a subject or period of time that has some significance. Bio-pics have a bad name to them because most of the end up being more lazy (Lone Survivor), more concerned about showing a specific agenda (Saving Mr. Banks) or just being downright false (Lee Daniels’ The Butler). Very few end up giving justice to the subject matter at hand, though movies based on artists seem to have a better time with their luck. Unfortunately, I don’t think luck is on its side on this one.

This movie chronicles 1 year before Jimi Hendrix’s (Benjamin) breakout performance in Monterey. From the time he was found by Linda Keith (Poots) to his move to London and relationship with Kathy Etchingham (Atwell).

Jimi has one main problem in this film that ties it down throughout its 2 hour run time: it’s a timeline film when it should be an exploration on the character. Timeline films are fine when the events that happen are interesting enough to sustain its runtime and make it interesting.

Apparently, Hendrix’s 1 year before fame isn’t that interesting and the result is just a meandering film that we learn only a few things about with Hendrix: he plays guitar really well, he’s quiet and when he does speak it’s like a living embodiment of a Snapple cap on acid.

One glaring and annoying problem with the movie is the lack of actual Hendrix music or representation of such. Yes, the movie is before he was famous, but you can still have a score or some types of songs that represent Hendrix if you actually can’t get the licensing of the music (the filmmakers had difficulty obtaining rights for the music from Hendrix’s estate). This becomes problematic unless you have a performance or script that helps you emote Hendrix’s values or just the vibe and feelings his music created. This film has neither.

Andre Benjamin’s performance is merely okay, but he brings nothing to the portrayal of Hendrix. In fact, he’s not even that believable as a guitarist, let alone one of the greatest guitarists that has ever lived. Benjamin just feels like he’s saying lines and playing a role, which is merely adequate but does zero to empathize or ground the character.

It’s not entirely Benjamin’s fault, because the script gives him nothing to work with. In fact, the movie in scene structure can fit on a checklist of sorts. Found at a dive bar? Check. Met his manager? Check. Went to London? Check. Nothing interesting or really all that engaging happens in between. Even scenes that shows flaws in Hendrix, like his oafishness and his pacifism is blurred out by random scenes of violence, anger, womanizing and just what feels to be a story that isn’t finished.

The only two characters that are worth anything in this movie are the one’s by the side of Jimi. Imogen Poots is good, but is very infrequent in this movie. While Hayley Atwell, an actress who is great in nearly all she does, puts in a great performance as his long term girlfriend in London.

Still, Jimi‘s most glaring flaw is that it’s bland. It’s boring at most parts and the music is okay at best. With a script that doesn’t mesh well and a performance by Benjamin that only goes slightly above line reading, it’s hard really to recommend anyone to watch this film, unless you’re a die-hard Hendrix fan or just someone who likes music bios.

2/5 – Despite two good female performances, the movie is a bland mess that doesn’t even feel like it’s giving the subject matter due props.

The Wiz Says #3

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