(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Commentary - Excuse me while I play this guy

André 3000/Jimi Hendrix
Photo credit: Getty Images

We want so much from our heroes. They catch our eyes and ears in the media spotlight and we want more. These days, the stars oblige with Twitter feeds and photo op outings for the paparazzi. But go back a few years and we could fall in love with someone and never get enough. Especially if an untimely death got in the way. Jimi, Janis, and Jim all left us hungry for more.

Celebrity bio-pics feed this hunger even as they consume it. Whether done for crass profit, historical revision, or true love, these films tap into a primal part of our psyche. It's a messy swirl of ego sublimation, idolatry, gossip hunger, and the need for neatly wrapped answers. We're not sure whether we want to see our idols as human or bigger than life.

I'm forced to confront all of this because André 3000 is set to play Jimi Hendrix in the upcoming biopic All Is By My Side. Hendrix has a mystique that hasn't been tarnished by any of the biographies or salvaged demo recordings. I'm torn between wanting to have that illusion of an omniscient sense of his life and being afraid that a poorly executed movie is going to pollute my ideal of Jimi Hendrix.

Look no further than Oliver Stone's The Doors to see how damaging a bad portrayal can be. Val Kilmer captured Jim Morrison's look and sound, but the story was a sloppy, simplistic mess. On the other hand a pre-meltdown Gary Busey did a serviceable job in The Buddy Holly story.

I like André 3000 as a performer and I'm sure he's taking on the role out of love and respect. I'm just not sure that's enough. Despite my doubts, though, I'm sure I'll go see it. Whether I'll bask or cringe, right now it makes me want to listen to Axis: Bold as Love yet again.

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