Saturday, October 25, 2014

[Review] Jimi: All Is by My Side

In a year of too many music biopics, here comes one for Jimi Hendrix, starring André Benjamin (better known as André 3000, the enigmatic artist from rap group OutKast). Even though André gives a great performance, the overall product is a little underwhelming. And once again, it leaves you with the feeling that you'd probably be better off watching a documentary on the musician instead.

The timeline of the film spans the year before Hendrix broke into stardom, from the stints of him playing smokey nightclubs in front of 20 people, to packed theaters. His quirks and ideologies are on full display, and so is his unique and dazzling guitar-playing. We see his meetings with label heads and his endeavors with women. The narrative also delves into the drug and alcohol abuse and the unfortunate violence it led to. A good thing that All Is by My Side has going for it is that it's a lot rawer than the sensationalized gloss of, say, this year's James Brown biopic, Get On Up.

But one inherent problem with many music biopics is that they have a difficult time rounding up much conflict or stakes, and this film is the same way. Sure, there are some brief spats and moments of heaviness, but for the most part, the film is a path of vignettes. It just moves along from one incident to the next and never really gains any momentum, so it lacks decent payoff. The film has a really good look to it though, capturing a dense '60s vibe. There is some interesting editing and intersplicing of moon visuals and psychedelic filters, especially toward the beginning.

André intently portrays the electrifying rock star and legendary guitarist with swagger, style, and nuance. It's clear that André spent a lot of time and dedication in order to get all of the performance details down. He's the reason to keep your eyes glued to the screen.


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