Howard Kaylan penned this memoir of his early career and his encounters with the Beatles, Graham Nash, Donovan, Brian Jones, and, most importantly, Jimi Hendrix. The overall energy more than compensates for budgetary constraints, and with proper handling, the film should attract an audience of nostalgic boomers.

Howard Kaylan — lead singer of the ’60s pop group the Turtles, later a member of the group best known as the Mothers of Invention, and then half of the duo Flo & Eddie — penned this memoir of his early career and his encounters with (among others) the Beatles, Graham Nash, Donovan, Brian Jones, and, most importantly, Jimi Hendrix. On a minuscule budget, director Bill Fishman (“Tapeheads”) and his enthusiastic cast recreate the exciting, topsy-turvy world of 1966-67. The overall energy more than compensates for budgetary constraints, and with proper handling, the film should attract an audience of nostalgic boomers, and might even cross over to younger audiences with a curiosity about the era.

Pic’s first half covers the year leading up to the Turtles’ biggest hit, “Happy Together,” which knocked the Beatles’ “Penny Lane” out of the top spot on the pop charts in March of 1967 and stayed there for three weeks. In the pre-“Happy Together” days, the group is playing L.A. clubs and scuffling along with some minor hits. In their off-hours, they hang out at Canter’s Deli, along with Frank Zappa (Adam Tomei), Mama Cass (Lisa Brounstein), and Jim Morrison (Bret Roberts). They worry about the draft; Kaylan (Justin Henry, the kid in “Kramer vs. Kramer”) and bandmate/best friend Mark Volman (Jason Boggs) have to con their way through a draft physical.

Second part of the film follows the band’s adventures when members arrive in England to exploit the success of “Happy Together.” They look up old buddy Graham Nash, who plays them an advance reel-to-reel of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” then takes them to a club to meet the Beatles. This confrontation with the Fab Four, and with John Lennon (Brian Groh) in particular, is the most intriguing scene in the movie, more revelatory than the subsequent, much longer conversation that gives the film its title.

Still, Kaylan reproduces — as best as he can remember through a haze of liquor — the gist of his long sitdown with Jimi Hendrix (Royale Watkins, in a completely believable turn); and his memories are a convincing recreation of a special cultural moment from the unique perspective of someone who started out as just another fan of what was happening and then became a big enough star to cross over into the world of his heroes.

Film was shot in 12 days — a hasty schedule, which nevertheless almost never compromises the tech credits; the generally rough feel appears as part of the movie’s stylistic plan.

Groh and Watkins are easily the best cast of the celebrity impersonators — a few of the other actors portraying rock stars simply don’t look quite enough like their universally recognizable models to suspend our disbelief — and most of the smaller roles are filled by memorable, underused character actors like George Wendt, Curtis Armstrong, and Taylor Negron.

My Dinner With Jimi

Production

A Fallout Films and Rhino Entertainment production. Produced by Harold Bronson. Directed by Bill Fishman. Screenplay, Howard Kaylan.

Crew

Camera (color), Philip Holahan; editors, Londin Angel Winters, Peter Shelton; music, Andrew Gross; production designer, Phillip Vasels; art director, Kent Casey; costume designer, Connie Cappos; line producers, Preston Holmes, Cal Naylor. Reviewed at the Santa Monica Film Festival, Feb. 16, 2003. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Howard Kaylan - Justin Henry Jimi Hendrix - Royale Watkins Mark Volman - Jason Boggs Bill Uttley - George Wendt John Barbata - Brett Gilbert Jim "Tucko" Tucker - Sean Maysonet Jim Pons - Kevin Cotteleer Al Nichol - George Stanchev John Lennon - Brian Groh Paul McCartney - Quinton Flynn Ringo Starr - Ben Bode George Harrison - Nate Dushku Mama Cass - Lisa Brounstein Henry Diltz - John Corbett Jim Morrison - Bret Roberts Mary - Allison Lange Louella - Wendie Jo Sperber Frank Zappa - Adam Tomei Herb Cohen - Curtis Armstrong Psychiatrist - Taylor Negron
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