“I’m Not There” [review]


I felt like writing a review, and due to all the talking about the film as of late, I just thought I’d throw my two cents into the ring. Going into the film, I expected a great film, but I was skeptical, because I didn’t see eye to eye with everyone’s expectations. The outcome, however, was grand. Mainly because I didn’t expect anything more than a few great performances. Here’s my review.

This film had crucial risky directorial choices, considering it is trying not to offend the man the film was portraying. This was hard, considering the entire thing is from plain sight, very experimental. To mix authenticity and ‘uniqueness’ together may cause duress, and it may become a big bust. Thanks to Todd Haynes’ dexterous job in the director’s chair, pinpointing all accuracies, and creating a film both honest to Mr. Dylan, as well as creative and even ‘bizarre’ at times. His use of Dylan’s songs were miraculous. Some to add symbolic references, some to set the mood, and some because they fit the scene perfectly. Some unique songs were thrown in to boot, and not all of his greatest hits made the cut. Haynes’ ideas for the cast were also par none, getting some of the best working actors and actresses today, to portray the man himself. Easily one of, if not, the most distinctive directorial jobs of the year.

The screenplay, also helmed by Todd Haynes, is very unique. It isn’t telling a life story, complied into a direct series of events, like most biopics. Rather, ‘different’ artists’ life stories, complied to re-create Dylan’s journey as a musician, and not the hardships of his everyday life. By doing so, it barely going into his ‘struggle’, and predominately showing his trials as an artist, and not how he got there. Haynes’ vision was just choosing interesting, ‘important’ stories to keep the viewer enjoying themselves during the 2+ hours of running time. While you’ll say “obviously, all bio-pics do that”, this doesn’t give a conclusion to a career, nor a definitive ending.

The acting from the tremendous ensemble was fantastic. Every performance was ranked from great to fabulous, and even people with limited time stuck with you.

To start, I’ll talk about two cameo roles. Both are from Academy Award nominees, and both were great. The first role is performance by Julianne Moore, who’s character is apart of the ‘documentary/interview’ section of the film. She is Moore, and thus knows how to act. However, her character had very little to work with, and was basically just apart of the film because they wanted to add more star power to the film. She was fine, but didn’t add or take away from anything. The other cameo performance comes apart by Michelle Williams, who plays Blanchett’s girlfriend (sexy, eh?). Sadly, you never see Williams and her husband on screen together, because their stories are different (for those wondering). She did a great job in a very, very small amount of time. Completely stole the scenes she had away from Cate; a hard feat to accomplish.

In my opinion, the ‘worst’ of all of the Dylan portrayals comes from Academy Award nominated Heath Ledger. He plays “Robbie“, and I thought he didn’t do much, but it wasn’t like he had much to work with anyhow. On a fault of my own, I got Bale and Ledger confused a few times, due to the striking resemblance. So my opinion on this matter could be taken as void, and I accept that. From what I do remember of Heath’s performance was that he did have a few pretty good scenes with Charlotte Gainsbourg. Pretty good performance, but wasn’t better than anyone else from the cast.

Christian Bale plays “Jack“, who later turns into the spiritual Dylan, known in this film as “Pastor John“. I honestly find Bale to be one of the most overrated actors currently, and this performance gives me more reason to believe that. While he is very good, he is inconsistent with his performance. His performance isn’t bad by any means, whatsoever, just not fantastic like the others. He did very well with what he had, but quite a bit of his role had very little dialog. This segment just seemed out of place, and Bale’s performance reflected upon it.

Richard Gere plays the ‘spiritual’ Dylan, as “Billy“, who’s story is (in my opinion) the weakest story, because it lags and goes almost nowhere. Gere’s performance, however, saves this section from being completely bad. As Gere does, he brings great emotion into his roles, and since nothing else was happening in these scenes, the viewer was much more focused on Gere, rather than the whole concept behind his character. Due to this, I hung on every word he said, and he is such a ‘poetic’ actor. His voice is memorable, and his character was easily the most ‘heroic’ of all of them. Great year for Mr. Gere, and this performance only adds to the statement.

Ben Whishaw plays “Arthur“, who’s the ‘courtroom Dylan’. His dialog is completely composed with no one else in the scenes and done to perfection. In the seven minutes of screen time he has, he compiles Dylan’s life and vision/thoughts better than most of the film. He really holds the film together, which is surprising due to the amazing cast. He had little to work with, other than a lot of dialog that didn’t involve much emotion. His performance was fantastic and is the underrated performance of the film, by far.

Most of you are probably wondering why I haven’t talked about Gainsbough. This is because she is fantastic, and gives one of the best performances of the film. Charlotte Gainsbough plays “Claire“, the significant other of Ledger’s character. Surprisingly, she has a fairly large role, and doesn’t express Dylan in a conventional way, though to some extent ‘symbolically’. An everyday person, frustrated due to being disappointed by people. Besides this, she gives a phenomenal performance. Her expressions, her presence and basically everything that has to do with her performance was just fantastic. I had completely forgotten about her until I started writing the review, and shame on me for that. Don’t see this only for Blanchett, but for Gainsbough as well.

Cate Blanchett plays “Jude“, the ‘out of control Dylan’. Her performance was fantastic, but at times she overacted a lot. I predict her to win the Supporting Actress award this year, because her performance is very, very revolutionary, and she does play out of her element to an extreme degree. We all have heard it’s an amazing performance, so it’s almost pointless for me to go into details here, for I agree to an extent.

My favourite performance comes from Marcus Carl Franklin, who plays the leathertramping Dylan, as a child, in “Woody“. His story was my favourite of all of them, and his performance [while not the best] was extremely heartwarming, and very lovely. His character shows more struggle than any other performance in the film, his voice was better than all of the other actors in the film, and his singing was so magnificent, it really gave me chills. If the year weren’t so amazing in Supporting Actor, he’d get a nomination easily. Very easily.

The technical aspects of an ‘experimental’ film should standout very much. These are an essential part of having a film that is experimental. It shows the beauty of the idea perfectly, and really enhances the ‘absurd’ parts of a movie. This film is no different.

The makeup really helped the film be what it was, especially due to Blanchett’s role. She really did look like a man, and because of this, I found that it was extremely well used. Along with this comes very glamourous hairstyles and wacky makeup.

The art decoration was great, especially in the pad. The houses everywhere ranged from completely empty with almost nothing besides a few mirrors, to a well kept house, tidy with a few ‘expensive’ things. From very modern to very unique, the decor was a major part of the settings and atmosphere.

The cinematography was a key ingredient in making this film so ‘special’. A lot of what happened had specific lighting, had a specific ‘tone’ it needed to grasp, in order to accomplish the right vibe. This film’s cinematography does that, thanks to Edward Lachman. Just great, great stuff.

Finally, the best tech of the film was the film editing. Without great editing, this film wouldn’t of worked. It kept a brisk pace, by splicing the ‘slowish’ stories and very intriguing stories together, by cutting up parts of scenes, and scattering them everywhere. Some will call the film very unorganized, incoherent, and flat out ‘outrageous’ to try to create such a ploy. I thought the completely opposite. Nothing was in chronological order, thus adding to the experimental feel Haynes created.

Nominations for I’m Not There
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Cate Blanchett (#2)
Best Director – Todd Haynes (#4)
Best Film Editing – (#1!)
Best Ensemble Cast – (#1!)

4 Nominations and 2 Wins.

My Rating : 8/10.  #29 of the Year

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