Biography of rock star Jimi Hendrix chronicles his early career, including a stint with Little Richard who fired him for getting too flamboyant, to his tragic failure. Struggling to find a ...
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Biography of rock star Jimi Hendrix chronicles his early career, including a stint with Little Richard who fired him for getting too flamboyant, to his tragic failure. Struggling to find a niche, he moves to England where he becomes friends with musician and producer Chas Chandler (Christian Portenza). Chas then teams him with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding (Krit Holdenreid, Christopher Ralph) to form the Experience. As Hendrix gets public attention, Chas then introduces him to a major record producer (Billy Zane) who takes over his career. While this gets Hendrix international exposure, it also places him in the hands of people interested only in the money aspects that his career offers them. One of the early disasters foisted on him by the record company is an opening bill for "The Monkees" on an American tour. His then unknown act is booed by teens just wanting to see their idols. A genius and a perfectionist, Hendrix drives everyone crazy as he starts making albums himself ... Written by
John Sacksteder <email@example.com>
How many guitarists does it take to sit through a movie about Hendrix?
As the joke goes...
Q. How many guitarists does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Five. One to screw it in, and 4 to say, "You suck."
Now as anyone could predict, when someone dares to portray the deservedly deified Jimi Hendrix, you're going to get the equivalent of the light bulb joke multiplied by thousands.
I'm not a guitarist, I'm a keyboard player. And while I have been known to hurl candelabras at TV screens when the actors don't play the piano right (like Ed Harris in "Copying Beethoven" yelling "B-flat! B-flat!" as he hits an F), I've mostly come to realize what most movie fans already know: actors are actors & musicians are musicians. Each should be respected for his or her particular craft being showcased.
Wood Harris does a fantastic job of staying true to the personality, quirks & mannerisms of the eccentric genius Jimi Hendrix. Jimi's gentle tone of voice, his boyish shyness in social situations, his signature laugh (a baritone "huh!") and even a lot of his stage moves, like the rapid fire over-the-neck pick slide, were recreated with an authenticity that tells me Wood must've studied as many old Hendrix clips as I have.
The story itself? Of course no one can encapsulate Hendrix in 90 minutes. What this biopic does is it avoids trying to be a narrative, and instead it gives us vignettes of who Hendrix was as a human being. In other words, you don't get a typical linear biography but rather, a series of short, almost disorienting scenes of Jimi giving an interview, interspersed with scenes of his life. With this presentation, we don't always get the whole picture of--for example, Jimi opening for the Monkees and getting drowned out by 16-year-old girls shouting "We want Davy!" and subsequently quitting the tour while, as a joke, a newspaper reporter floated the rumor that he was banned by the Daughters of the American Revolution for being too erotic--that's not in there. Instead we just catch a glimpse of his frustration at being marketed so poorly for the sake of a buck. And that's what the meat of this film is about: Jimi's constant struggle with managers & big money who kept undermining his growth as an artist.
If you watch this film, realize that that's the biggest conflict that Jimi had, and perhaps that's what ate him up. A rare musical visionary, he was never truly appreciated for what he wanted to do because the pop powers kept telling him to play shows and write 3 minute radio-friendly songs. Jimi wanted the opposite, and as the film notes, he sunk gobs of his profits into building Ladyland studios where he could indulge in 14-minute poetic masterpieces like "A Merman I should turn to be". This movie, I think, faithfully depicts that all-too-common battle between art & life. Few artists fought it as rebelliously as Mr. Hendrix.
While I enjoyed this film & the performance by Wood Harris, I have to dock it a bunch of points for a glaring oversight: it doesn't feature any of Jimi's music!! When I say "Jimi's music" I'm not talking about the great songs "Hey Joe", "All Along the Watchtower" & "Wild Thing" which are indeed in the film. But Jimi didn't write those songs. Since this movie focuses on Jimi the creative visionary, shouldn't they have featured a few of the songs he actually wrote? The only way we can hope to get into Jimi's mind is through his brooding masterpieces "The Wind Cries Mary", "Manic Depression", "Merman" ...what about "Little Wing"?
My guess is that it may have been some licensing problem, because really there's not a single songwriting credit to Jimi. So because of that, I drop this film from a solid 8 or 9 down to 7 stars. It's still very much worth watching, but it may leave you a bit unfulfilled. No worries, the best education is to listen to a Hendrix album.
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