There has been no better, more descriptive title for a film this year than “I’m Not There”. The title beautifully encompasses the complicated film. Don’t expect to make sense of this picture, prepare to be taken on a wild, seemingly random journey into one (if not) the most brilliantly complex musician of our time.
I can see why director Todd Haynes hasn’t directed a film in five years. The script must have taken months, if not years, to complete. Haynes’ last film, Far From Heaven was a gorgeous, highly unconventional exploration of 50s melodrama. He uses his same knack for unconventional wisdom here. This is perhaps the most eccentric bio-pic ever produced.
Bob Dylan is no Ray Charles or Johnny Cash. He’s intricate, involved and terribly convoluted. Haynes uses all of Dylan’s obscure qualities to fuel this wondrous new film. Six different actors play Dylan, from male to female, white to black, young to old, each actor represents a different part of Dylan’s life. Whether it is a period of his life, a way he acts, or a simple creation of his mind, it’s all here.
Once the film gets going, you hope for logical narrative, one actor then another then another, all in perfect, harmless order. Forget about it. Haynes begins the film with a version of Dylan played by young, black actor Marcus Carl Franklin. From there we move to Christian Bale (he is never bad, period) playing Dylan during his acoustic, activist years, to Heath Ledger playing an actor who portrays Dylan in a bio-pic, who’s divorce resembles that of Dylan’s first. Got it? That’s the point. Haynes isn’t concerned with you understanding or creating a gateway into the illusive mind of Bob Dylan. He wants you to see what everyone else sees, a troubled artist who faceted multiple personas.
At this point we get Cate Blanchett. Believe me, if there is one reason to see I’m Not There it’s to see Blanchett. Her uncanny ability to resemble Dylan is utterly startling. With the whacky hair, the large sunglasses, the movements, the walk, the talk, it’s all genuine. Better than any actor in the film, she is Bob Dylan. This performance will change the movies. People will be talking about it for years.
If the film hasn’t lost you already, the Richard Gere scenes most likely will. Gere plays Dylan as a secluded, Western man, hiding from his own demons. With plenty of zoo animals and creepy costumes to fill a David Lynch film, Gere delivers impeccable work as a version of a man torn from reality, fed up with existence.
It is very important to meet Haynes halfway here. You won’t get Dylan’s chart-topping, blasting classics, instead his more reserved poetic songs fill the soundtrack. You also will not get an easy-flowing, narrative plot, I stress the word unconventional. I’m Not There is like nothing you’ve ever seen. It is a unique portrait of a unique man. Filled with marvelous, Oscar-worthy acting (namely Blanchett), each actor matches Dylan’s eccentricities pound for pound. Watch the film with an open mind, roll with the hits and misses and you’ll be stunned. Like a rollin’ stone. A-