Saturday, February 02, 2008

I'm Not There

This morning I saw I'm Not There, starring Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger.

It's an avant garde approach to Bob Dylan's life, told through a series of sequences that feature a number of different actors portraying the folk legend. Really, it's over two hours of hits and misses.

The hits come in the performances, first and foremost. Blanchett is clearly the standout, brilliantly adapting the mannerisms, sound and look of the star while placing her own charismatic stamp on the story. The more we see from her, the more we can't help but wish the entire movie was only her. She could've easily pulled off all of the complexities the filmmakers were trying to convey. Particularly hilarious is a scene of her frolicking with "The Beatles."

Also great is the late Heath Ledger. He plays Dylan with a combination of sexiness and swagger that goes way beyond the charm of the real man. While vastly different from Dylan in both physique and spirit, Ledger manages to convince us in his first few moments on screen, just "which" Bob we're watching.

In addition to the major players, there are also a sprinkling of supporting characters that infuse great amounts of life into the narrative. Namely, Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams.

The beauty of the way the film is shot also contributes to its successes—the Dylans, etc. move freely between grainy black-and-white 'footage' and gorgeous, full-color frames. At no point does this become distracting or confusing, in fact, it actually helps move the story along.

And that's where the misses come in. As someone who is not much of a Dylan fan, I went into the film hoping to learn more about why he rose to fame (and stayed there). Unfortunately, this doesn't tell me much. I already knew he was a philosopher, a liar, a poet, a rebel, etc. but what I didn't know was why?

Although elements of his character are exhibited by the various actors (some miscast, by the way: Christian Bale), the movie seems so caught up in its artsyness that it can't quite connect to its purpose.

And the more I think about it, maybe that's why I'm not much of a Dylan fan.

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