Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I've had this DVD for quite some time, but put off watching it, since I really wasn't expecting it to be very good. While it's not the greatest biopic I've ever seen, Hendrix is far from the worse. Wood Harris plays Jimi Hendrix and does a competent acting job, although I never believed I was watching anything more than an actor pretending to be someone else.
The plot of Hendrix is built around an interview he is supposed to be doing on the last day of his life. This allows exposition from Jimi to move the movie through the various years of his life. We first see Jimi as a young boy living with his single father and a brief glimpse of his mother and her problems. The film then skips to Jimi getting out of the Army after breaking his ankle. Hendrix then follows Jimi through his early years of performing in different bands. One specific instance shows us Jimi being fired from Little Richard's band, because he felt Jimi was getting too much attention with his guitar playing and theatrics. Little Richard also claimed Jimi copied his pencil thin mustache. All of this moves pretty fast, since they're trying to fit Hendrix's lifetime into 100 minutes.
Jimi gets his big break when Chas Chandler (formerly the bass player for The Animals) sees him performing in a club and convinces Jimi to come to England, where he will manage him. In England, the one thing Jimi really wants to do is jam with Eric Clapton. After some persuasion from Chas, Clapton agrees to let Jimi jam with Cream (Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce) on stage. This goes so well, Chas tells Jimi that he should form his own power trio and they recruit Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell and The Jimi Hendrix Experience is born.
The rest of Hendrix takes us through the ups and downs of his wildly successful career: We get a look at Jimi playing The Monterey Pop Festival. A short snippet with Jimi as the opening act for The Monkees. A look at the dissolution of The Experience. A quick stop at Woodstock with Jimi performing "The Star Spangled Banner". A very short looks at his free form jazz group, Sky Church, and the formation of Band of Gypsies featuring Buddy Miles on drums and Billy Cox on Bass. During all these phases in Jimi's career we get an inside look at his excessive drug taking and womanizing, his struggle to control and expand his own music, and the toll the road took on him.
There were two parts of Hendrix that I thought could have been done a little better. First, between a lot of scenes, we get shown "real life" clips (Beatles, Monkees, Woodstock, Kent State, Martin Luther King assassination, etc) to establish time and place. Unfortunately, a few of these scenes included people/events in the wrong time line. The other thing that jarred me out of the movie was Wood Harris' guitar playing. The movie, with some careful camera work, manages most of the time to hide the fact that Harris wasn't really playing the guitar and they used someone else's hands in any close-up shots. The trouble came when, in some wide shots, you could definitely see Harris' hands and the actual music being played didn't match.
Hendrix was denied the use of any original material that Jimi had recorded, so the movie is filled with covers of Jimi's covers - "All Along The Watchtower", "Hey Joe", "Wild Thing", etc. This worked out pretty good for the most part, but it did leave me wanting to hear "Are You Experienced", "Purple Haze", etc. I will say that Harris did a really good job of lip synching....whether he was lip synching his voice or someone else's I haven't been able to determine. IF you're a diehard fanboy of Jimi Hendrix, then you probably won't like this movie. IF you want a pretty decent overview of Jimi Hendrix's life, then I would definitely recommend Hendrix.