I wish I lived in the 60s. Anyone who knows me knows this as a fact. I will always spit out some nasty remarks like “Fuck this generation” whenever something like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian being crowned in TIME’s most influential list. Again: Fuck this generation.
So, whenever there’s a new biopic of one of the 60s most celebrated minds (Dylan, The Beach Boys) I always make sure to give a look-see, expecting today’s talent to do justice to the talent that most likely influenced them one way or another (I have I’m Not There to blame for my high expectations). Whenever a music biopic fails me, I take it personally. Our generation sucks, so why are you making our generation look even worse by fucking up a documentation of the non-sucky accomplishments of the world’s best? So, here goes: Director and writer John Ridley, how could you fuck up retelling Hendrix’s story? Why would you do that to me? To all of us?
All is By Side taught almost nothing about Jimi Hendrix. The only things I got out of it was that he believed in love for all and that he hit his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham. That’s kind of it. There is no actual introduction to Jimi’s character, which is portrayed by Outkast’s Andre Benjamin, a man who gave it his all but was ultimately let down by John Ridley. Yeah John, you let Andre 3000 down too.
The film starts with Hendrix meeting Rolling Stone Keith Richard’s girlfriend Linda Keith (Imogen Poots), who is charmed by the guitarist at a local club and immediately strikes a friendship, simultaneously offering him coke. They talk about why he makes music, and how big he could be, while being incredibly high and rambling about some other shit. Unfortunately, this combination of important dialogue with editing techniques like fade outs and narratives is almost entirely the film’s gimmick. The editing is just horrible; and I never really gave editors much credit until now, cause by god does this film look cluttered. It jumps around and introduces important music icons like Eric Clapton by briefly pausing the frame, and adding a name and title next to the character. It has a documentary-feel by doing that, but does not mesh well with this obvious non-biography film. Also, the film is filled with characters like the Beatles, etc., but doesn’t really explore these characters much. It’s like, “Hey, Paul McCartney is in the house….yeah, that’s it.” The film really doesn’t make use of any other characters outside of Jimi, his girlfriend Kathy (Hayley Atwll) and Linda Keith.
This strange love triangle of sorts, makes the human race look bad. I mean, you have gorgeous Linda who introduces him to the Animals’ Chas Chandler who manages the young Hendrix, moving him from New York to London, where they hope will launch his career as a mad guitarist and vocalist….except, he hardly sings. Like, he sings in only one fucking song, and its a cover of a Beatles song. There is no Purple Haze, no original work….its all just talk. The whole movie is just talk, because instead of focusing on Hendrix they focus on his relationship to Kathy and Linda, which involves physical violence and a lot of “Fuck you, you fucking bastard.”
Honestly, the whole movie is like this. I guess I got a look into how he was managed, but when there’s no talent to showcase, the managing part really in big deal. Hendrix is even more of a mystery to me after watching this. Should I just take what I learned from here and assume that he was just a bored violent ass who played well but treated his girls like dirt? Is this really what you want me to think Ridley?
It really is a shame that nothing else is explored here. Aside from a phone call to his father, there is no indication as to where Hendrix came from, how he got into music, or even if he turned into an ass in London, as opposed to maybe always being an ass.
As I mentioned before, the let down really is the direction of the film, on top of the overall writing. Ridley could’ve gone with any other awesome approach: Chronologically, flash backs, documentary style. But no, he wanted to show us Hendrix fans a type that only smokes weed and beats his old lady with a pay phone. It’s not all about the music here-It’s about the bad image.
Unless you really want to waste your time watching a two hour-long middle finger to a guitar legend, then go ahead. Like I said, I didn’t know Hendrix, so who knows, maybe he was a piece of shit in real life, but at least balance out the bad with some good in the form of his music. Not to excuse domestic violence at all, but just showing us one side to a story without any affect just makes for a horrible shock factor. A big fat “Woah!”.