A chance encounter in the Cheetah Club leads Jimi to model and socialite Linda Keith (Imogen Poots). Poots is compelling in the role of Keith, rendering her as a ferocious figure who passionately fights to get Hendrix heard. Desperate to put Hendrix’s talents out there, she whisks him to London with the aid of former Animals manager, Michael Jeffery (Burn Gorman). Once in England, Hendrix encounters Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell), a groupie who wins his affection, much to the chagrin of Linda. Whilst the absence of copyrighted material would be detrimental to any musical biopic, the lynchpin of Ridley’s film is a deep examination of Hendrix’s troubled relationships with these two women. Here we have a vision of Hendrix as a man ruled by the woman he loved, yet conflicted by a desire to create great music.
There has been much made of the film’s public legal wranglings, so much so that it has almost become a bore. However, it is easy to see why the Hendrix estate refused the use of his music. Jimi is a blunt portrayal of a complex figure that lacks nuance, happy to wallow in sensationalism rather than revel in facts. The greatest disappointment here is that whilst Benjamin totally embodies the spirit of Hendrix – bursting from the screen with flare, charisma and dynamism – the performance he gives is far greater than the story it’s contained within. Perhaps most uncomfortable of all are the directorial choices. Awkward jump cuts and odd freeze-framing employed to clarify members of the 1960s Rock and Roll scene feel stilted and incredibly patronising. It is as if Ridley gracelessly attempts to deny the tropes of the genre whilst appropriating the very worst of them.