Director Todd Haynes has made one unusual biopic about Bob Dylan. Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, The Hours, Superstar) has cast seven different actors to portray Dylan in seven phases of his life: folkie, born again, rock god, divorced dad, Guthrie-ite, Western outlaw and movie star. Dylan is never mentioned by name but the script does lift actual quotes from vintage press conferences and even borrows from an unreleased outtake from the obscure 1966 film Eat The Document. In that sense, Im Not There is a game of spot the reference for Dylan fans.
Im Not There captures the character of Dylan but only in certain phases. Cate Blanchett steals the show with her portrayal of Dylan as the 1966 rock star hipster; she nails Bob as the snarling speed freak of the Blonde On Blonde era. On the other end of the scale, the Billy The Kid subplot starring Richard Gere has such a tenuous link to Dylan that it looks like its in the wrong film. However, Julianne Moore does a fine job portraying the caustic yet candid Joan Baez character, Alice.
This is not a factual biography reflecting historic events and dates but a symbolic one. For instance, in one scene Bob and the Beatles giggle on the grass (get it?). The various Bobs overlap and are intercut, threatening to lose the audience in places. There is no story arc, rather this film is a collection of character impressions that are juxtaposed like several figures in a mural. Dylan is a complex man and this is a complex movie. Haynes has adopted a daring structure that largely pays off but meanders a little too often over the 135 minutes.
Im afraid that only Dylan fans will "get this film, since they know Dylans mercurial life, which is full of contradictory actions and attitudes. The uninitiated may just get lost. (Alliance Atlantis)