Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jimi Hendrix Movie Lacks Rhythm

The star of the film is André Benjamin, formerly of hip hop music's OutKast.  He does a pretty good job as the late rock legend, Jimi Hendrix.  It would've been great to see Benjamin play Hendrix in a movie with a better, more developed screenplay.  Also, it would've been really great if this new movie had been granted the rights to use some classic Hendrix music in it.  In the looks category, André Benjamin was well-cast as Hendrix.
That's one of the disappointments of Jimi:  All Is By My Side.  This focuses on Hendrix's life when he left New York City and became a blazingly hot music star in 1960's London.  Pardon me for dropping a name but, during my VH1 host years in the late 1980s, I interviewed Paul McCartney in London for a one-hour special.  He mentioned his awe when he was one of The Beatles and saw Hendrix perform.  This feature needed to awe us with this icon talent in the spotlight.  But it didn't.  For a film in which a legendary show biz entertainer is the focus, it doesn't deliver what the filmgoer has a right to expect.
Musically, we don't get "Purple Haze" or "All Along the Watchtower" or "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock.

Although this film doesn't claim to be a biopic, it will be in the minds of most moviegoers.  So, let me use movie biopics as examples:  When you saw Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray, Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk The Line, Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in What's Love Got To Do With It, Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter, Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues and Susan Hayward as Lillian Roth in 1955's I'll Cry Tomorrow, your focus was on the person who became a star.  You saw where they came from and what made them a star. You saw the obstacles they faced and, if their stardom burned out for a while, you saw how they rose from the ashes and went on to another personal victory.  First and foremost, the attention was on the star, the subject of the biopic.
In Jimi:  All Is By My Side, Hendrix is practically a supporting player in his own story.  The first twenty minutes are more about the women in his life than they are about him.  He has a few lines and speaks bumpersticker-like statements -- the "Today is the first of the the rest of your life" kind of talk.

Apparently, he had a black girlfriend.  That character appears in one scene.  I wanted to know more about the relationship with her, a New York woman who seemed to know the real Jimi.  But we only got that the one short scene with her.  Then the attention goes to the two white British girlfriends that Jimi had.  The movie is more about them than it is about him.  There's not a satisfying balance in the screenwriting.  It's like seeing a biopic about John Lennon in which most of the screen time goes to Yoko Ono.

This film was written and directed by John Ridley.  He won an Oscar for his adapted 12 Years a Slave screenplay.

Like Ike Turner, Hendrix apparently had some physical abuse issues.  He viciously beats the heck out of one girlfriend in public.  Was there a history of violence in his life, in his upbringing?  What were the excesses or problems that eventually caused this rock superstar to die at age 27?  We don't learn those facts.  The script and direction are as choppy as the editing.

Another thing:  Jimi:  All Is By My Side has an ending so abrupt that a few people in the Friday night movie audience when I saw it blurted out loud, "That's it?!?!"

I knew exactly how they felt.  That was the most frustrating and unexpected climax since my prom night.  What a major disappointment.
The movie should've been called Jimi:  All About My Girlfriends.

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