Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

I'm Not There

USA 2007
Directed by
Todd Haynes
135 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

I'm Not There

Synopsis: Inspired by the life of Bob Dylan, I'm Not There brings us six main characters all of whom embody some aspect of what the director sees in the singer/songwriter's life, with the emphasis more on the man as myth than his actuality. These characters have been defined by the film's producers as "dustbowl minstrel, folk prophet, visionary poet, electric Judas, embattled celebrity, born-again preacher, and finally, lone cowboy."

And so we have:

Woody Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin), an eleven year-old black kid who rides the countryside on boxcars with hobos, playing his guitar, and who finally gets taken in by a "nice black family";

Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Wishaw), the French symbolist poet who speaks to an unseen interviewer;

Jack Rollins/Pastor John (Christian Bale) is a folk legend (referred to as the troubadour of conscience) of the Sixties who reinvents himself as a Pentecostal evangelist. At times he is spoken about by ex-girlfriend Alice Fabian (Julianne Moore) who also sang with him on occasions;

Robbie (Heath Ledger), a film star married to Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). While he runs around philandering, she tends to their two children back in the USA. In flashback we see the start of Robbie and Claire's relationship, and watch it unfold to its inevitable divorce;

Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett) is an androgynous folk star who reinvents himself into an electric rock singer, much to his fans' disgust. He is constantly hounded by the press, especially BBC reporter Mr Jones (Bruce Greenwood) who reveals to the public that Quinn is in fact the son of Jewish storekeepers; and

Billy (Richard Gere) rides into a town called Riddle. After confronting Commissioner Garrett (Greenwood again) he flees town and hops a boxcar, finding Woody's old guitar. He remarks "Me. . . I can change during the course of a day. I wake and I'm one person and when I go to sleep I know for certain I'm somebody else. I don't know who I am most of the time."

The voice-over narrator (Kris Kristoffersen) tells us early on that the film is inspired by the music and many lives of Bob Dylan. In a very early scene we see Quinn lying dead, as the narrator remarks, "God rest his soul and rudeness" and we know we're in for no ordinary ride. I'd venture to say that no biopic has ever dealt with someone's life in this way (and all segments are sanctioned by Dylan). That's what makes this film so remarkable but it will no doubt be infuriating to some people. It is not easy to comprehend just who is who, who is meant to be who, and what is happening at times.

The rich historical tapestry that rests behind the film takes us through many iconic times, including Nixon's presidency, the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, Beatlemania and, of course, the folk era of the Sixties. Each of the stories is separate and shot in different styles, including montages and fake and real newsreels, and although the film jumps from character to character, all is linked by Dylan's music, much of it original versions and some of it covered by the actors.

The acting by the entire cast is nothing short of magnificent with the standout being Blanchett whom one could almost believe is Dylan. The scene in which she sings Maggie's Farm is a knock-out. The only weak link is the section dealing with Billy, which seemed too disconnected from the Dylan we know for my liking.

For Dylan fans this challenging and innovative film is a must-see and though I've always admired the man more as a poet than a singer it makes me want to delve into his music afresh. It also makes me marvel that a film-maker (Haynes wrote the original story and co-wrote the screenplay with Oren Moverman) can come up with something so vibrant and innovative. As its title indicates I'm Not There is an elusive film. In this respect it is  eminently suited to its subject and a refreshing change to the standard biopic approach.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst