Jimi: All Is by My Side – Movie Review


Jimi: All Is by My Side – Movie Review by Frank L.

Director: John Ridley
Writer: John Ridley (screenplay)
Stars: André Benjamin, Hayley Atwell, Imogen Poots

John Ridley fresh from writing “Twelve years a slave” now presents a biopic of Jimi Hendrix set in New York and London during a twelve month period in or around 1966/1967. Hendrix, the legendary guitarist, would have been twenty four/ five years of age. Hendrix is on the verge of fame; the film ends at the airport with Hendrix about to depart for Monterey where fame will descend upon him. Hendrix is played by Andre Benjamin (Andre 3000 from OutKast). He is a couple of years short of forty when this film was shot. Not helpful when playing a 25 year old. Also unhelpful is the fact that Ridley did not have the co-operation of the Hendrix estate in making the film so was unable to obtain access to the Hendrix recordings and live footage. These are substantial challenges to be overcome even if the film is restricted to a relatively short period before fame devours Hendrix.

Andre Benjamin is impressive as Hendrix but he cannot alter the fact that he does not look like a twenty five year old youth. In fact he is of an age when Hendrix was dead for over ten years. Linda Richards (Imogen Poots), the then girl friend of Rolling Stones Keith Richards, is a somewhat remote but insightful éminence grise in New York as she attempts to put in place some structures to support and enhance Hendrix’s innate genius. However she is a little too cool and certainly too cool to fascinate Hendrix if something more feral comes along. And it does in the form of Kate Etchingham (Hayley Atwell); she is feline, earthy and immediate and when Hendrix falls within her sights, her claws dig deep. Of course she does not have an entirely unobstructed maul as Ida (Ruth Neggra) provides a further element of attraction for Hendrix and Richards is never that far out of sight. Hendrix somehow although the centre of all this amorous attention remains aloof in some musical cerebral estate… a place where it appears his music is omnipotent and omniscient.

Given the performing rights difficulties Ridley faced in making the film, he tries to circumvent the problem and to a certain degree succeeds by the use of clever stratagems. He also creates a credible feel of the swinging sixties in London even if he uses the streets of Dublin to create the atmosphere. This is a glimpse of Hendrix, with his vulnerabilities, already becoming distantly but clearly visible, but notwithstanding their distance they are menacing in what is still an almost blue sky. The sun will shine brightly in Monterey; but that is the next part of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

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