On Thanksgiving, we took advantage of the holiday mellowness to see I’m Not There, the Bob Dylan “biopic” known best for having 6 people play different aspects of Dylan’s character and career. I’m no Dylan aficionado (I don’t own any of his albums), but I’m definitely aware of him and his milieu — raised middle class Jewish in Minnesota, remade himself into a Woody Guthrie-like folkie in the West Village (and squiring Joan Baez), then remade himself again as a plugged-in rock-and-roller, before flaming out, finding Jesus, etc. etc.
Unfortunately, such general knowledge doesn’t seem to be enough. From what I can tell, I’M NOT THERE is a treat for aficionados, packed with references and allusions to Dylaniana, but as an “interested layperson,” it struck me as a very ambitious film whose reach exceeded its grasp. Todd Haynes clearly had distinct ideas as to how he wanted to express Dylan’s life, and he should be commended for attempting something poetic and challenging, but it simply doesn’t come together as a good, engaging, lose-yourself-to-it film.
The disjointed nature of the narrative renders the film as a series of set pieces, some fun and/or interesting (particularly those with Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger) and some not (Christian Bale, Richard Gere). As a view, this narrative approach also kept me at arm’s length from the story, making me an observer, as opposed to a member of an audience, which limited my ability to engage emotionally… You get too caught up in the way Todd Haynes is telling the story that you don’t get caught up in the story itself.
Anyway, I would say for most folks, they can simply pass on this film — you’re not missing out on anything major or important from a cinematic standpoint.