Showtimes Hendrix A Few Riffs Short
Billed as a look behind the scenes at the life of the legendary guitar man, Hendrix, Showtime's new original film, often seems lost in a purple haze.
The film goes through the highlights of Jimi Hendrix's life, showing his upbringing in Seattle, his rise to prominence in London and his drug-induced downfall, but it scratches the surface of the most interesting moments.
Star Wood Harris (Rhapsody) bears a slight resemblance to the rocker, and he even comes to resemble him more and more as the film goes on. But his performance is so low-key that it seems as if he's stoned even before he tries his first hit of cocaine.
The film is framed around a television interview with Hendrix, purportedly shot Sept. 12, 1970, just days before his death. It flips from black-and-white, videotape footage of that interview to flashback scenes of his life.
We meet many of the key players in Hendrix's life-pre-stardom girlfriend Faye Pridgeon (Vivica A. Fox), former Animals guitarist turned Hendrix producer Chas Chandler (Christian Potenza) and cash-hungry manager Michael Jeffery (Billy Zane)-but aside from Chandler, the depictions are only skin-deep. Fox, the biggest name in the cast, is practically in a cameo role.
Hendrix's career is laid out in chronological order as he tours with and is fired by Little Richard, gets his big break at Greenwich Village's Cafe Wha?, moves to London and plays Monterey and Woodstock.
There are also the expected scenes of Jimi's excesses, both in the studio and the bedroom.
But the movie glosses over some of the more interesting and less-publicized aspects of his personality, such as the criticism he took from black radicals for failing to identify himself with the racial politics of the day.
In one brief encounter, Black Panthers visit Jimi and urge him to sign on to the cause, and he declines. But the script doesn't explain why Jimi is so strong in his colorblind convictions in the face of the era's turmoil.
It also gives sparing detail on Hendrix's early life in Seattle, showing only brief glimpses of the mother who abandoned him and the single dad who gave him his first guitar.
What the movie does show-almost to excess-is Jimi in concert. The rerecorded songs, however, don't sound quite right. And the concert footage is jumpy, MTV-style, switching to the same black-and-white look as the documentary scenes even though there are often no television cameras in the room.
In short, there's not much in Hendrix that fans haven't heard before.
Hendrix bows Sunday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. on Showtime.
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Mike Demenchuk has served as content manager of Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News since 2016. After stints as reporter and editor at Adweek, The Bond Buyer and local papers in New Jersey, he joined the staff of Multichannel News in 1999 as assistant managing editor and has served as the cable trade publication's managing editor since 2005. He edits copy and writes headlines for both the print magazine and website, wrangles the occasional e-newsletter and reviews TV shows from time to time. He's also the guy to bother with your guest blog, Fates & Fortunes and Freeze Frame submissions.