From Jimmy James to Jimi Hendrix
John Ridley’s “All Is By My Side” is not your average biopic attempting to encompass an entire life in the span of 2 hours. On the contrary this film follows a year in Hendrix’s life, from 1966-67. The film reveals that this pivotal year transformed Jimmy James into the rock legend and pop culture icon he is known as today. Ridley approaches Hendrix not as a character, but as the man Hendrix truly was: shy, passionate and imperfect. It is apparent that Ridley did not want to objectify Hendrix as a glorified rock star with clichéd images of Woodstock. Ridley wanted to capture the reality of Hendrix’s life, the good and the bad. Haley Atwill, the actress who plays Hendrix’s love interest says, “the film does not set out to comment on Jimi’s life or death, but rather capture the spirit of it.”
André Benjamin, more commonly known as André 3000, takes on the challenge of portraying Jimi Hendrix. With such large shoes to fill, 3000 does his best to match the mannerisms, coy behavior and diction of the rock legend. 3000’s physical transformation is so uncanny that it’s as if Hendrix himself was sheepishly staring away from the camera.
The film depicts how Linda Keith, Keith Richards’ girlfriend at the time, was instrumental in Hendrix’s rise to fame. She recognized Hendrix’s talent, introduced him to future manager Chas Chandler and pushed him to meet his full potential. Linda was the catalyst behind his greatness, but is rarely acknowledged for her help. The film addresses and recognizes the spectrum of people who helped mold Hendrix into the legend he became, from Linda Keith to Al Hendrix, his negligent father.
The film leaves the audience wanting more, but it must be understood that this is Ridley’s intention. The point of the film is to not have a conclusion, because the film in its essence is simply the introduction to Jimi Hendrix’s stardom.