Jimi: All is By My Side Blu-ray Review
Jimi Hendrix remains a misunderstood phenomenon all these years since his untimely death a mere four years after breaking onto the mainstream music scene with his unbelievable guitar playing. There have been many attempts to tell his story but certainly none weirder that the current JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE. This film, starring André Benjamin (ne André 3000, of OutKast fame) in the title role, is all abstract style and far too little substance for this viewer/reviewer, though it does feature some standout performances. But performances do not a grand movie make.
JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE chooses to forego the lifetime retelling of Hendrix’s story, instead focusing on the period of time as he was discovered and formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience, his band for all three of his studio albums. This was likely a choice for timing – how much story can you tell in 2 hours? Or perhaps the time constraint was required because the production failed to obtain authorization or music rights from Hendrix’s estate; that would make sense. What doesn’t make sense, however, is the film’s choice to present Hendrix as a misanthropic loner who had little appeal, a claim refuted by real-life girlfriend Kathy Etchingham (played in the film by Hayley Atwell), a relationship featured prominently in JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE.
JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE opens with Hendrix’s being ‘discovered’ by Linda Keith, then girlfriend of Keith Richards, who seduced Hendrix and apparently introduced him to LSD. More likely the characters who truly inhabited Hendrix real life were compressed into the versions presented in the film. Common practice in biopics but here it led to some very public complaints against the film, including Etchingham’s own review of the film on IMDB.com where she denies having ever been struck by Hendrix, in addition to questions of the characterization presented.
This is my first major issue with JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE; Hendrix was by all accounts a bit of a mystic. But he was also charismatic and funny, someone people were drawn to. The vision presented here is none of these things. Portrayed by André Benjamin, who gives his heart to the role of Hendrix, the filmmakers waste his potential with a representation of Hendrix that is drab, humorless, and without the very soul that made him such an iconic figure in music history. Benjamin does what he can with the role but has almost no opportunity to showcase his musical talent, a crime given his natural ability and charisma on stage.
The other problem with JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE, a much more major one sadly, is with the technical presentation. Director John Ridley chooses to use technical tricks, strange quick cuts and tricks of sound, giving the film the air of abstract art. These tricks serve only to pull the audience out and remind us constantly that we are watching a movie. I don’t know if this was deliberate on Ridley’s part or the part of editor Hank Corwin (NATURAL BORN KILLERS), but it was a terrible choice that effectively ruins the experience (pun intended). Avoid this one if you can.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.39:1) JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE features a great transfer and beautiful high definition imagery when it isn’t a nearly traumatic experience.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is decently presented in JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE but, as I explained above, the stylistic choices of overlaying dialogue out of order and the film’s ‘unauthorized’ nature leave too little music and too much abstract dialogue. The final presentation is confusing and erratic at best.
Music by Waddy, Lyrics by Danny (04:19) A short interview segment is the lone special feature on JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE. Given the stylistic choices you might have thought the filmmakers would want to talk about why/how they did what they did.
The Blu-ray for JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE also features the Original Theatrical Trailer.