This weekend was the first chance critics have had to see musician and actor Andre Benjamin play Jimi Hendrix, in a role that fans have complained has kept him from recording new music with his longtime partner in OutKast, Big Boi. NPR's film critic, Bob Mondello, screened All Is By My Side at the Toronto International Film Festival and sent this missive.
OutKast's Andre Benjamin may be playing Jimi Hendrix in the new biopic, All Is By My Side, but he sure doesn't look like the Hendrix we remember when we first see him — hair straight in a modified mullet, doing choreographed moves as a sideman behind a soul singer at N.Y.'s Cheetah Club.
Luckily for him, sitting in the audience is Linda Keith (Imogen Poots), a British model and sometime girlfriend of Keith Richards. She convinces Hendrix to trade "Jimmy" for Jimi, stop straightening his hair and start playing his own music. By the second reel, the freshly afro-ed Andre 3000 looks enough like the '60s superstar to make the film a decently convincing Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Because All Is By My Side mostly concentrates on the years before Hendrix hit it big, the music is bluesy, rather than psychedelic. No "Purple Haze." No "Hey Joe." Still, it's electric enough to impress the folks it needs to impress on screen.
And that's also true of the star. Andre Benjamin has made enough OutKast videos to know his way around a camera. If he's hardly a powerhouse actor, he seems comfortable enough on screen, whether dropping acid with one of many girlfriends, or laying into a guitar riff to try to impress Eric Clapton.