Courtesy of those lovely guys over at Heineken London, we got invited down to a private screening of the Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is By My Side, led by ATLien wildcat Andre 3000. The event is part of some very dope exclusive experiences being offered up by Heineken as part of their Open Your City project (which you can check out more of here).
Rather than document Jimi’s rise to cult stardom in the traditional biopic fashion, beginning with his struggles as a kid in Seattle and ending with the teeth-shredding headline slot at Woodstock ’69, instead the movie focuses on a slither of his formative years in London between 1966 and 1967. Much like a Harmony Korine-inspired picture, director John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) pulled in a lot of experimental treatments to give a more artistic snapshot of Jimi’s life, fusing jump-cut visuals with psychedelic hallucinations against some rather gritty dialogue.
Overall the film seems to fall short of what most people will expect out of Jimi Hendrix biopic. The producers couldn’t source the rights from Hendrix’s estate to include any songs written by Jimi, so the soundtrack wasn’t nearly as immersing as it should have been. Moreover, the storyline seemed to focus less on Hendrix’s creative endeavours and more on the rather surprising violence that consumed his relationships at the time. For most of us, tarnishing that image of a softly-spoken and ultimately vulnerable Jimi is uncomfortable to watch. Kathy Etchingham, close friend to Jimi, has vocally decried the film as largely fictitious, including specific scenes where she is seen being beaten by an unremorseful Hendrix. That wouldn’t be such a problem if the dialogue was more engaging, but it just never seems to take off, and you’re left sitting through the whole film just waiting for it to pick up.
The saving grace for all of this is however is Andre Benjamin. His acting as Hendrix is truly convincing, from the tone of his voice to facial movements you instantly forget that it’s the smoothedelic Atlanta wordsmith. What’s ashame is that the script seems to let him down. I think everyone can appreciate that since this wasn’t a hollywood-backed project the execution had to be stylised in a niche/art-house. But rather than make it more intimate and personal – as all great indie films do – the dialogue was too generic and the climax too dull to ever get lost in the life of this legend. Even with Andre’s stellar performance, Hendrix seemed comatose for two hours. The saving grace for all of that of course was all the free beer and popcorn courtesy of Heineken London, so overall still a pretty good experience.
Check out the trailer below, and to find out more about similar experiences head to the Heineken Star Treatment Page www.startreatment.co.