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Critic’s Notebook: TIFF: Andre 3000 mesmerizing as Jimi Hendrix in John Ridley’s ‘All Is By My Side’

Andre Benjamin in ‘All Is By My Side’
Andre Benjamin stars as Jimi Hendrix in “All Is By My Side”

TORONTO -- I caught John Ridley’s Jimi Hendrix movie on the fly in Toronto.

Literally. “All Is By My Side” was the last film I watched at the festival before catching a plane back to L.A.

The film is both written and directed by Ridley, whose script for “12 Years a Slave” is all the talk at Toronto. “All Is By My Side” is a smaller indie project that captures a year in the life of the game-changing guitarist.

WATCH: Toronto Film Festival trailers

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The year was 1966. During that time he went from small-time Jimmy James to big-time Jimi Hendrix -- most of it in London and with a little help from a new friend, Linda (Imogen Poots), who at the time was Rolling Stones Keith Richard’s girl.

Though the film is a bit of a mess, with one too many rough transitions, I did like the formal introduction it gave me to Andre Benjamin, who plays Hendrix with a mesmerizing, shredding, screeching flair.

Technically the playing should have come easily. Benjamin, aka Andre 3000, made his name fronting the madly popular hip-hop group Outkast with his partner in crime, Big Boi. He’s also been one of Hollywood’s go-to guys for soundtracks for a while -- both writing and performing. “The Great Gatsby” is one of the most recent.

On the acting front, he put in a couple of seasons on “The Shield.” Though that’s one of those TV series I know was great, I’ve yet to catch up with it. Sorry, Michael Chiklis.

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Benjamin was also the third man in the relatively bland 2008 comedy “Semi-Pro.” Will Farrell and Woody Harrelson got better play, but not better dialogue.

In “All Is By My Side,” though, Benjamin is center stage and unforgettable.

I can’t predict how the many who worship Hendrix will ultimately judge Benjamin’s rendition. I only know I could have watched him do his thing forever. It truly was like watching a relationship between man and guitar unfold, expand and overwhelm.

The actor had probably clocked a million hours on guitar before he took this role. But not left-handed, which Hendrix was. So apparently Benjamin spent nearly three months, 24/7, learning how that would feel –- how that would play.

Anytime that guitar was in Benjamin’s hands, it played pretty darned well.

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