Review: I’m Not There | movie reviews | Hindustan Times
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Review: I’m Not There

Inspired by the life and music of Bob Dylan, I’m Not There features six actors including an African-American youngster and an Australian woman if you please, portraying the legendary singer at different stages of his career, writes Rashid Irani.

movie reviews Updated: Jan 16, 2009 19:17 IST
Rashid Irani

I’m Not There
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger
Direction: Todd Haynes
Rating: *** ½

It’s quite an audacious concept. Inspired by the life and music of Bob Dylan, I’m Not There features six actors including an African-American youngster and an Australian woman if you please, portraying the legendary singer at different stages of his career.

The star sextet hardly bears any resemblance to Dylan nor is his name actually mentioned throughout the unconventional biopic.

Encompassing his ever-evolving public and private personae, the interwoven segments strive with varying degrees of success, to capture the Dylan mystique. While there is no denying the skills of director Hayne’s (Safe, Far From Heaven), it is not always easy even for the most ardent fans, to spot every allusion to the enigmatic musician’s biography.

To begin with, Dylan is represented in his youth as an African-American prodigy (Marcus Carl Franklin) who calls himself Woody Guthrie after the popular depression-era folk singer. In rapid succession we then meet Bob in the avatars of a Greenwich Village troubadour (Christian Bale), a hipster actor (the late Heath Ledger), an anarchist author (Ben Whislaw) and finally, a past-his-prime cowboy outlaw (Richard Gere, lacklustre).

The sixth and most inspired Dylan surrogate is embodied by Cate Blanchett as a firebrand pop artiste. Among the other characters who drift in and out of the mockumentary-style narrative count the woman (Julianne Moore) who helped launch Dylan’s career in the early 1960s, his estranged wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a British investigative reporter (Bruce Greenwood) and the celebrated American poet Allen Ginsberg.

The fragmented storyline tends to be infuriating at times. Moreover at 135 minutes, the film is a bit lengthy. On the other hand, Ed Lachman’s cinematography is excellent. And of course, there are the great Dylan songs on the soundtrack. Additionally, there are cover versions by such performers as The Monkees, Tom Verlaine, Calexico, Sonic Youth and even Christian Bale who belts out a rousing rendition of The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.

All seen and heard, this portrait of a counterculture icon merits a viewing.