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  Jimi: All is By My Side No Experience Necessary
Year: 2013
Director: John Ridley
Stars: André Benjamin, Hayley Atwell, Imogen Poots, Burn Gorman, Ruth Negga, Ashley Charles, Amy De Bhrún, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Laurence Kinlan, Andrew Buckley, Aoibhinn McGinnity, Robbie Jarvis, Tara Lee, Tristan McConnell, Lauterio Zamparelli, Adrian Lester
Genre: Biopic, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  2 (from 1 vote)
Review: Linda Keith (Imogen Poots) was the girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards in the mid-nineteen-sixties, but she happened to be in a New York nightclub one evening when a band was playing, and she became intrigued by the guitarist. She found out he was called Jimi Hendrix (André Benjamin) and twigged he was far too talented to be playing in these circumstances, so determined to get to know him better, and succeeded, taking him into her circle of friends and introducing him both to those in the music industry who could assist him, and also to LSD. Indeed, he was very fond of drugs, which contributed to his spaced out view of life, one which threatened to derail his career before it even began...

When it was announced that writer and director John Ridley's biopic of sixties guitar legend Jimi Hendrix was not going to be allowed by the musician's estate to use any of his music, there was much snickering and allusions to the scenes in sitcom 30 Rock where the resident diva was to play Janis Joplin, only likewise they couldn't get the rights therefore she ended up playing "Jackie Jormp-Jomp" in a travesty of the original intent. It was true that this was without tunes familiar to both casual fans and experts alike, but All is By My Side had more problems than that; what music there was didn't come across as particularly important since hardly anyone we see in the film is bothered about it, as if Jimi's laidback persona affected their perception.

That in spite of Hendrix being very big news indeed during the period depicted, enjoying a hit album and singles in the British charts, only this would have you believe he was a struggling amateur until he appeared at Monterey, as if the Brits opinion didn't matter at all. Well, there was one Brit whose opinion mattered, and he was Eric Clapton, here portrayed as all the young men of note were here as actors sporting fright wigs (check out Keith Richards' cut glass accent for real bafflement), and on his first encounter with Jimi storming offstage when he should have been jamming because this new rival is too good for him. Whatever you thought of Clapton personally, there was huge mutual respect between them both, as seen in the famous footage when Hendrix played a Cream song on Lulu's TV show.

But the music was very poor all round, and it would be difficult to believe anyone would be blown away by any of it, sounding more like an impersonation of Stevie Ray Vaughan than an accurate Hendrix impression, not helped by the lack of many recognisable songs aside from a mediocre Wild Thing or underwhelming Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band which improbably wows a crowd including Paul McCartney and George Harrison, the famous folk's names put up on screen since there was no way you'd know who they were meant to be otherwise. As if that wasn't troublesome enough, Benjamin's Jimi seemed permanently stoned (though not on heroin, which is never mentioned) so that whenever he opened his mouth to converse he never said anything worth listening to.

The issues mounted up: girlfriend Kathy Etchingham (played by Hayley Atwell) was very vocal in her complaints about the depiction of events, in particular the scene that overshadowed everything where Jimi takes a telephone receiver and batters her with it. She said it never happened, and though there were tales of Hendrix being a violent drunk occasionally, this part comes out of nowhere when the film has been burbling along so inconsequentially beforehand. It would be bad enough to see him slap a woman around, but Benjamin plays it like attempted murder, so how can we enjoy his career triumphs after watching that? Therefore what you had was a combination of droning and generic music, questionable storytelling, the star looking too old for the role (which he was, over ten years too old), the air of a cheap straight-to-DVD production shot in a few corners so as not to reveal this was not made in the sixties, YouTube clips of the actual sixties edited in, Adrian Lester's poor accent, a lack of anything remotely convincing (it's not as if the man went largely unrecorded), and punishing boredom overall. Lucky us.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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