I love Bob Dylan. I love Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, and Heath Ledger. The fact that these five people go so well together is totally ingenious, thus "I'm Not There" is in fact, an equally as ingenious film. I think that I should start this review (or to some, "essay") off by saying that "I'm Not There" is not a biopic about Bob Dylan. This is a film about five people who possess a similar persona to that of Dylan; at some point in his life. Dylan is such a great man that you must make a great film to honor him; and "I'm Not There" does indeed pay great respect to the legendary artist. I believe this is a great, hypnotic, and addicting film; the Bob Dylan-based film that's about ten times as good as you'd expect it to be. I don't think most Bob Dylan fans were particularly thrilled to see that one of their favorite songwriters/singers was getting a film partially based upon his life, and then again some will still appear less than excited, but the film is very, very rewarding. I'm aware that it's not going to be "great" in everyone's eye. It's a visually stunning and well-acted film no doubt, but it might bore others to tears. I for one could not take my eyes off the thing; as it started and ended well. The hook in the beginning draws you in and keeps you hanging, while by the end you're on your way; with thoughts. Not many films have had such an effect on me as a person, but this is no ordinary film, as you may have seen. I believe that the filmmakers involved in this film were very smart to not make it a biopic, since a Bob Dylan biopic is, let's face it, nigh impossible to make. But then again; nothing is impossible. Except for immediate success. I can only imagine the horrors that could come out of a film such as a Bob Dylan biopic; and I imagine that most film directors do as well. That is why "I'm Not There" was made; to fill in the space in cinema. Dylan deserves to be recognized for just about everything he's done in just about every way, and this is a great way to celebrate his grand existence through filmmaking. This is a charming and splendidly entertaining film. I don't suppose there's anything that most people would find particularly off-putting about it, although then again there's not much that would help to draw the average movie-goer in. You must go into the film with a very open mind. If you do this, then there's a damn good chance that "I'm Not There" will appear to you as a great movie. As it is, this is the most respectable Bob Dylan-associated film I've seen. The film captures the often times shocking whimsy of Dylan's music, without leaving out the sophisticated humanity contained beneath his persona. This is a wonderful film; and Dylan is a wonderful person. It's good to see that he is one of the few men out there who has had a film made about his life, told through the eyes of others, yet it still manages to be great. I'd say the film deserves some damn good recognition for that.
The point of the story in this film is not to make sense. Why should it make sense? It's meant to put Bob Dylan's persona in the bodies of different people; each nearly mimicking a part of his life. The first "persona" we meet is that of a young boy who seems to have a sort of natural talent for story-telling through lyrical finesse. The second narrative tells the story of a folk singer whose story is told through a faux documentary. Then we go to the third narrative, which tells the story of an actor who is starring in a biopic about the previously mentioned man. The fourth narrative is about a down-on-his-luck singer by the name of Jude Quinn. Jude's story is one I find particularly interesting since the tragic effects of drug abuse and the hatred of has-been fans seem to greatly affect this person. The last narrative centers on Billy the Kid; a man who goes searching for his dog and finds a whole lot more than he probably bargained for. The story is told in an almost non-linear way; thus the separate plots almost have no relation to each-other. There's even a little side-narrative that doesn't seem to serve much narrative purpose, yet it's continuously shown throughout the film. Not quite in a sublime way; but in a sense where it's just there to provide some interesting dialogue. As I said, "I'm Not There" doesn't want to make sense. But yet it DOES make sense; you just have to have the kind of mind that can comprehend such often times confusing material. None the less, this film serves one purpose; to indulge all those Bob Dylan fans. And it succeeds miraculously, if you were to ask me. I don't like to be biased in my opinion, but I really do think this is a splendid piece of filmmaking. It's a loving homage to the incredibly person that was and is Bob Dylan. His legacy will forevermore live from then to now, and to now till' the day the legend decides to kick the bucket.
The acting here is absolutely spectacular. Christian Bale leads the cast as the first of the many (adult) "Bob Dylan's". I'm going to refer to the lot as the former since they have a little bit of Dylan embedded into each and every one of them; although in truth...they are not quite Bob Dylan. This is why "I'm Not There" is not a biopic. Anyways, Bale was as good as he typically is in this role; and he speaks the dialogue he was given as if he was born for the part. Heath Ledger also plays an incredibly endearing movie star whose life is on the edge. But the most captivating performance, I feel, was that of Cate Blanchett. I've liked Blanchett ever since I first gazed in bewilderment at "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy, but this is one of the actress's most unique roles yet. Why? Because not only does Blanchett play a male character, but she also gives the character a nice feel. Richard Gere also plays a surprisingly intriguing Billy the Kid, and to his credit, he's one of the best "Billys" I've seen, on-screen. There are good performances to be seen here; especially from those who play character possessing a part of Bob Dylan's essential persona. It makes for an intriguing set-up; and each individual character deserved a good actor. This FILM deserves good actors. And in that sense, "I'm Not There" gets exactly what it's earned.
Too often I focus on how a film presents itself visually, but I suppose this is an important aspect of a film's entirety for me. After all; I'm looking at the film in a number of ways. If it doesn't look good when I look for the picture quality and such, and if the camera work isn't particularly crafty, then where's the payoff to watching the film? Often times, good films have good visuals. "I'm Not There" is one of those films; sporting unique and inventive visuals throughout. It's kind of interesting how certain stories are told with black-and-white cinematography, while the rest are in color. I think this is to create the artistic effect that director Todd Haynes probably wanted when he made the film. And yes, "I'm Not There" could, in a number of ways, be artistic. And I'm not only speaking of the film visually; the craft involved in the production is endlessly incredible. The efforts of the director, the cast, and just about everyone else really make this film. It's no the plot that amazes me; it's the style, more-so. I like what "I'm Not There" sets out to do; create the best damn non-biopic about Bob Dylan you've ever seen. The biggest of Bob Dylan fans will appreciate this film; as it features the music that the artist has brought into this world as well as an interesting story involving the man's different stages of personalities in life. I think that Bob Dylan is one of the best songwriter/singers of all time; therefore this was my kind of joint. There's entertainment to be found here to those who dig the style of the film to begin with, and while I will debate whether it's perfect or not, "I'm Not There" is none the less good filmmaking. But that's just my opinion. The story of this film begins with "All I can do is be me. Whoever that is." That's damn right.
There's not much more I can really say about "I'm Not There" that hasn't already been said by many before me. You know this is a good film, but perhaps that's just the opinions of most. Some won't like the film, but that's the case with some of the better films out there. But when speaking of my personal taste, yes, I did indeed like "I'm Not There". I've been listening to Bob Dylan's tunes for quite some time. I don't know if I'm the most hard-core of fans, but then again, do you need to be to like this film? No, I don't think that you do. All this film requires is an eye for genuine, honest filmmaking. If you can see art in a film, then you will see the greatness in this one. It's one of 2007's more honorable productions, and while I don't absolutely love it (nor do I consider it historically important), there's a lot to look at here. From the amazing opening to the incredible end, "I'm Not There" remains touching and insightful. You don't need to give a damn about Bob Dylan in order to give a damn about this film; and perhaps this is the beauty of it. If there ever is an actual Bob Dylan biopic, then I sure as hell don't want to see it. "I'm Not There" is the kind of film that I want to see; and by all means, you should too. I would definitely recommend the film, especially to those who at least know how culturally significant Bob Dylan truly is. I believe that you can't call yourself a lover of music without loving Bob Dylan's seductive tunes; and I also believe that you can't call yourself a true fan without seeing this film. Whether you like it or not, it exists. So why not watch it for that alone?
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About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall (ryguy4738)
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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