"The absence of Hendrix's music makes for an oddly tense affair"

After years of rumours, confirmations and denials, the long-brewing Jimi Hendrix biopic is finally upon us, and what a disappointment. Ever since rapper-producer-actor André 3000 (now known by his more boring "real" name as André Benjamin) signed on to play the lead role, Jimi: All Is by My side has been one of Hollywood's most hotly anticipated biopics. Directed by 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley, and featuring absolutely none of Hendrix's music, the film fails to come even remotely close to doing justice to the life and career of one of the 20th Century's most influential artists.

Spanning the years of 1966-67, All Is by My Side attempts to get around its lack of music licensing by sticking to covering the formative years of the guitarist's career. We see Hendrix's rise from backing musician to relative stardom. After being plucked from an anonymous smoky New York club by Keith Richards' girlfriend Linda Keith (Imogen Poots), Hendrix moves to London where he struggles to make an impact at first. Perhaps this is because the film's Hendrix isn't performing any of the songs he might have actually played in real life.

The absence of Hendrix's music makes for an oddly tense affair. His performances in the film tend to consist of guitar noodling and generic bluesy vamps, and everything feels like it's building to a climactic release that never comes. The filmmakers do get close during a cover performance of a Beatles song but then it's André Benjamin's voice that stands in the way. When he's speaking, Benjamin does a good job of pulling off Hendrix, carefully adopting his vocal inflections, but on stage he sounds awful.

At the centre of the film are Hendrix's relationships with Linda Keith and his long-term girlfriend Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell). Hendrix's relatives and Etchingham have disowned the film, claiming the events depicted to be false. Whether true or not, the relationships come across as a confusingly written mess. Hendrix seems cold and detached, drifting from scene to scene and bending to the whims of the other characters. This is no fault of Benjamin's performance, rather this is the result of sloppy writing, perhaps All Is by My Side is attempting to paint Hendrix as a victim of the people around him, but instead he is simply a bit part in his own biopic.

All Is by My Side feels incomplete somehow. Most of the elements are there, there's a solid cast and Hendrix is an interesting enough subject; but the film never seems to come together. There are no exciting musical performances to get the adrenaline pumping, no 'eureka' scenes where we see the writing of a classic song, not much to grab the audience's interest whatsoever. The film has all the scope and audacity of a made for TV movie. Its dull treatment of one of the most electric careers in the history of music feels like a stunning vista that's been shot in a cripplingly limited close up, all the exciting moments are there somewhere, hiding just out of shot. Instead of being the loving biopic that the filmmakers set out to create, All Is by My Side is an insult to the legend of Jimi Hendrix.