Jimi: All Is By My Side-2014
Reviewed September 30, 2016
Jimi: All Is By My Side was not quite the film that I was expecting it to be- it was better! I was not expecting drivel certainly, the film did receive a Best Male Lead Independent Spirit award nomination for Andre Benjamin in the title role, after all. But I expected an overview of the rise and fall of famed rocker Jimi Hendrix. Instead I was treated to a more introspective piece than I imagined. The film is a British production.
Interestingly, the film was denied use of any Jimi Hendrix songs familiar to audiences, but only songs written in 1966 and 1967. This surprisingly turns out to be a positive to the film.
The awesome achievement of this film is its non-conformity and being an independent film, lots of freedoms were undoubtedly given. This is a good thing. Had this film been targeted for a run at the local multiplex, it may have been a run of the mill affair, focusing on the star and the star only. It is also shot in a less than glossy way, giving it an almost grainy, gritty look that I found added something.
Impressively, the supporting characters, specifically three females that Hendrix has relationships with throughout his initial rise to fame, are prominently featured, and the story shifts at times to their perspectives and feelings, not just on Hendrix’s. The film does not focus on Hendrix’s untimely death.
We meet Hendrix (compellingly played by Benjamin) performing guitar in a sparsely attended bar in New York City. He is discovered by Linda, girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, as she becomes both smitten with Hendrix and also recognize his immense talents. Slowly, he is discovered (mainly in London) and rises to fame. However, the film is not solely focused on his success, but rather his personal life.
Besides Linda, Hendrix becomes involved with volatile groupie and fixture among the 1960’s London music scene, Kathy, and cultured American Ida. Instead of the female characters being written as one-dimensional and dizzy, all three are quite intelligent and layered. While each has feelings for the star, they are forces to be reckoned with in their own right, and we grow to care about their characters as individuals.
A scene involving Jimi violently beating girlfriend Kathy with a telephone during an argument has been refuted by friends as being fictitious- Hendrix was known as a gentle, peaceful man. A controversy has emerged as to the accuracy of this film in general, but I thought it quite introspective and fascinating.