Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Not There: A Four-Sentence Movie Review

The musical biopic genre sorely needed a fresh approach, something that wasn't going to follow the paint-by-numbers "Behind the Music" formula of rise, fall (due to drugs, of course), rise from the ashes, and eventual contentment that most of these stories (Ray, Walk the Line, and the upcoming parody Walk Hard) seem to follow, but could still sum up the career and capture the creative spirit of the musician, and that's exactly what Todd Haynes has done for Bob Dylan with I'm Not There.

Haynes' choice to use six different actors (including Batman and The Joker) to portray Dylan (or a Dylan-esque figure) seems head-scratching, but think of each actor and story segment as a representation of a certain phase of his career (for example, a 12-year-old black kid embodying the early development of Dylan's musical tastes and style, which was heavily influenced by the blues) and the whole idea makes such brilliant sense - even if you're not overly familiar with Dylan's biography, which I'm not - that you wonder why no one's ever tried it before.

Not all of the segments work (Richard Gere's didn't quite seem to fit with the rest of the movie), but the flashiest and most radical interpretation is Cate Blanchett's androgynous portrayal of the late 1960s, Don't Look Back incarnation of Dylan that seemed utterly unlikable, yet was surely formed by the endless attempts by fans and media to mold him and his music into the defining voice of a generation, a burden that would probably make almost any artist run and hide.  Blanchett's performance might be seen as too gimmicky to deserve an Academy Award (although you could probably say the same thing about her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator), but she should absolutely score a nomination and if she wasn't already considered the best actress on the planet, this should give her the title.