Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Andre 3000 does Jimi Hendrix justice, but biopic's accuracy questioned

Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 1:16 PM

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  • Darko Entertainment

The Jimi Hendrix biopic, All is By My Side, is garnering more buzz at Toronto Film Festival, where it debuted this week. According to Michael Cieply of The New York Times, André Benjamin, who stars as Hendrix, spent six months learning to play left-handed guitar for the role. The Times piece goes on to talk about the less comprehensive, more narrowed focus of the latest generation of music biopics, resulting in part from the downturn in soundtrack sales combined with the expense of acquiring music rights. Or, in the case of the Jimi Hendrix catalog, the outright inability to secure rights.

Which is why writer/director John Ridley (also behind the forthcoming 12 Years a Slave) chose to stick to Hendrix's origin story leading up to the time before he breaks big in London in this independent film.

As for Benjamin's portrayal of the guitar legend, The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore gives him props:

One savvy move in both commercial and artistic terms is the lead casting of Andre Benjamin. The rapper hasn't acted in a film since 2008's Semi-Pro; this performance shows that (the disappointment of the OutKast movie Idlewild notwithstanding) Benjamin needn't be confined to comedy and genre roles where charisma is all that's required. Benjamin loses himself in Hendrix's soft, melodic speech, talking earnestly about the colors his music produces and the cosmic fate of mankind without sounding like a hippie idiot.

Apparently, the plot focuses largely on the role certain women, including Linda Keith (who was Keith Richards' girlfriend) and Kathy Etchingham, played in his life and career during that period. Ridley reportedly became infatuated with the idea of making the biopic after hearing an obscure Hendrix song titled "Sending My Love to Linda." But the alleged historical inaccuracy of the film has drawn criticism, particularly from Etchingham, a former girlfriend of Hendrix's who met him soon after he arrived in London. In response to THR's description of a scene in which Hendrix physically assaults Etchingham in a pub, "Kathy Etchingham" has left a comment on the post disputing the depiction:

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  • The Hollywood Reporter

While there's no actual proof that the commenter is the real Etchingham, the comment jibes with other disparaging remarks she's made about the film and the writer/director's decision to not consult with her and some other first-hand sources. She apparently has a problem with Linda reportedly being portrayed as the one who helped Hendrix "artistically find himself," too:

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  • The Hollywood Reporter

Could it be a dramatic rewrite of history? Quite possibly. But as it's been said, factual accuracy alone does not a great rock biopic make. Since photos are all we have to judge by until a studio picks this flick up for distribution, here's a shot of Benjamin with Hayley Atwell, who portrays Etchingham.

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