TIFF 2013 Review: All is By My Side

all is by my sideJohn Ridley’s “All is By My Side” takes a bio pic route less travelled by, depicting how Jimi Hendrix became the rock n’ roll icon he is, not a totally different part of someone’s life – like their legacy or death (like “The Last of Robin Hood,” a film also at the festival). That’s one thing that is easy to admire about the film.

Some might not know a lot about Jimi Hendrix going into this film. You’ll throughout that he does drugs, he’s all about love and happiness, and he’s seemingly pacifist in parts; yet he beats women, but immediately makes up with them. He seems to care about people, but he is influenced by others’ ideas and important events. He sees his music as an art-form, which I can appreciate. He doesn’t have a good relationship with his father, so perhaps that affects him. He has to deal with discrimination because of his skin colour. He is a layered subject for a biography, but a complicated one. Many might go in wanting to learn a lot about Jimi Hendrix, and while there is enough facts some may not know; they’ll forget them soon after the credits roll, and some (like myself) might walk out of the theatre the same way them came in: Little familiarity with a complicated Hendrix.

Now, many will learn generics about the man, but for a film that sets out to capture the spirit of Hendrix, it doesn’t do a good job. When a bio pic hardly leaves a lasting impression, it means the biography doesn’t execute its sole purpose well enough for complete enjoyment. It is interesting to see Hendrix’s road to fame, as that isn’t what most bio pics would do. It’s stylish, but the quick cuts are hard to appreciate. It feels as if director John Ridley wishes to start one scene before he finishes the one before. It makes it hard to focus on what’s happening on-screen. The way images overlap over people’s conversations will be admired by some, but it makes it feel like too much is happening on-screen; and it won’t enhance many people’s experiences. At one point, Hendrix and Linda Keith (Imogen Poots) are having a conversation, but another couple in the room are having a conversation – so it’s hard to focus on what’s being said in the more prominent Hendrix conversation. The editing is haphazardly done and will probably give people headaches. The editing feels like a practice in redundancy.

To make a film about a rock and roll icon told without much of his music is an interesting choice, and some musical performances offer entertainment. I rarely don’t enjoy biographies. This is the second one I haven’t liked, after “The Iron Lady.” It doesn’t mean it won’t be enjoyable to some. It’s just not as powerful as it could be. The character study of Jimi could be more clear and concise, and a stronger plot would assist the movie, as well. At least it’s unpredictable. The performance by Andre Benjamin captures the soul of Hendrix. He’s a good part of the film, but in my eyes, he’s rarely astounding. Benjamin is the only one to capture Jimi’s spirit fairly well.  The story misses.

The performance from Imogen Poots is a memorable aspect. She struggles to be a friend to Jimi, a task that is surely difficult. She is memorable because she is wowed by Jimi’s talent, and she discovers him. She brings some enjoyment to the film, but when she is off-screen, the movie ever-so-slightly suffers. So it suffers for most of the film, but I love the thought that someone can change one’s life in an instant like that. It’s especially important for aspiring rock n’ rollers like Jimi; being discovered heavily relies on luck, and of course, talent.

You might like this. I don’t know. There’s comic relief. The audience I saw it with laughed a lot. But a quarter of the time, I felt like I wasn’t in on the joke. That isn’t a good feeling during a feature film. I normally don’t like abrupt endings, but I liked when this one ended. This film just couldn’t absorb me in its boring atmosphere.


2 thoughts on “TIFF 2013 Review: All is By My Side

  1. That is a shame, not including music from the biopic’s subject. I don’t know much about Hendrix but from you’ve reviewed, I’m probably better off with a Wikipedia search and a selection of his work on YouTube.

    1. It is an odd choice. I guess it is only fitting since he hadn’t made any of his big hits yet, but he does play his guitar a lot. Yeah, you probably are, unfortunately… Maybe you’ll absorb more than I did if you end up checking it out

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