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Movie Review: I'm Not There

I'm Not There: You Shouldn't Be, Either

It must be something with the name Todd that motivates talented directors to make films that have the potential to be great, but then ruin them with complicated casting and an overly ambitious plot. First it was Todd Solondz (director of the wonderful Welcome to the Dollhouse) who cluttered Palindromes by employing eight different actors to play the same 13-year-old girl; now it's Todd Haynes who uses a very similar technique in the truly awful I'm Not There. Instead of a 13-year-old girl, the actors portray Bob Dylan, and this time around there are six actors instead of eight. One would think that two less actors would make the movie a little less jumbled. It didn't.

The reason I'm Not There is even more perplexing than Palindromes (which I didn't believe was possible) is that in addition to six actors emulating Bob Dylan, they each have different names and live in different eras. At least Palindromes was linear and each of the eight actors used the same name. In I'm Not There "Bob" is referred to as John, Jack, Jude, Woody, Arthur, and Billy. Confused? I certainly was! If you want to read the only two compelling reasons to watch this film

Undeniably the strongest part of this film is the music. Just like Across the Universe, the other film this year that featured a catalog of songs from a specific artist (in that case, The Beatles), the true standout is the vocal artistry of Bob Dylan. Although most of the songs included are a little more obscure (surprise), there are tried-and-true favorites like "All Along the Watchtower," and "Highway 61 Revisited." If you're a Dylan fan, take my recommendation and just buy the soundtrack. But, if you still want to see this film, there is one thing worth watching.

The one, and only, reason to actually go see this film is for the incredible work done by Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett, and Christian Bale — all of which is almost undone by the ridiculously ill-conceived Richard Gere as Billy the Kid/Bob Dylan. I honestly don't blame Gere for his lacking performance, he did the best he could with the cards he was dealt. The other actors, most notably Blanchett and Bale, have more realistic Dylans to portray, and each do so beautifully.

There are other things I could mention about the film: the political subtext (the film deals with the JFK's death, the civil rights movement, Vietnam), Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore's cameos, or Heath Ledger's nude scene, but I'm afraid this might entice you to see the film. And I'd rather you buy the soundtrack, if you must.

Photos courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Join The Conversation
embot embot 9 years
judgimg from your review I'm going to guess you have no idea who bob dylan is and no idea of the many ways he has recreated himself or redefinied himself and what he does. His impact on our culture is tremendous and multi-faceted. I'm glad this was not another "Ray" or some dull linear "this is your life."
GiggleSugar GiggleSugar 9 years
This film is def not for everyone. I agree, Buzz, it was ambitious but perhaps overly so. Cate was indeed amazing, and Richard Gere seemed lost in the woods, literally. There's easy listening music; I would file this film under "difficult viewing movie."
bhilb bhilb 9 years
I just saw this this weekend and loved it. To me, it was a lot less abstract in the actual execution than it is in the description. I am a Dylan fan, but certainly don't claim to know a lot about him. I read Chronicles when it came out, more because of the literary acclaim it received than because it was Dylan. I think having read that helped me understand the movie. The voice that came through in that book was strongly present in this movie--and in each one of the characters. This movie definitely required the viewer to think outside the box, but I think the result was definitely worth any trouble. I disagree with Buzz that it came across as pretentious and unenjoyable. Dylan is not your typical person, so a typical biopic would not have worked for him.
cberry cberry 9 years
Perhaps if you knew anything about Bob Dylan you wouldn't be so quick to review. It makes you sound stupid. Just like 'Bob Dylan's Chronicles', you're a reviewer jumping on the, "It's not linear" bandwagon. Nothing about this man is and he wants to keep it that way. Normal biographies are straightforward and tend to oversimplify. Rather than do that, Dylan chose to allow this because it was able to explain things in a way very similar to his music. And if you had a basic timeline of his life going into the film, and weren't expecting a pathetic 'normal' biopic, you wouldn't be so quick to criticize.
splayer splayer 9 years
I think I'll still Netflix it.
ktacce ktacce 9 years
aww, let's not crack on Buzz - she's gotta watch tons and tons of movies and then has the tough job of having strong opinions on each of them that are well thought out and evidenced. I think she's always very thoughtful in her reviews. Writing (especially reviewing) is more difficult than people imagine! Anyways, before I read the comments my only thought on this was: damn, i'd go see it just for Heath's hot self - that picture is a delicious preview. yum.
MisterPinkNoTip MisterPinkNoTip 9 years
I saw this movie and I thought it was pretty good. I think doing a film about Dylan this way is the best. A straightforward biopic would not have done him justice or worked at all. I think the parts with the young boy and Cate Blanchett were OUTSTANDING, however, I really disliked the part with Richard Gere as Billy the Kidd. Overall, however, I think it was good becuse it was the only way to capture Dylan. I don't think that Dylan could have been portrayed by only one actor/actress of the film would have fallen apart. The six characters weren't confusing at all - they all represented stages of Dylan's life and views/changes in his music. It's worth it to go see the movie if you're a Dylan fan and to see Cate Blanchett do a wonderful job. She didn't just portray Dylan, she WAS him.
Jinx Jinx 9 years
Anything I've read, says the movie is supported by Dylan, a rare accomplishment in itself. It won 3 awards and 1 nomination at the Venice Film Festival.
UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 9 years
I like the headline of this review...I don't want to see this, and it's too bad because I like Bob Dylan. Oh well...wonder what he would think of this movie.
koolbr33z3 koolbr33z3 9 years
I'm actually looking forward to seeing this movie. I think it'll be one of those either you love it or absolutely hate it movies. We'll just have to see.
bhilb bhilb 9 years
I didn't mean to imply that I thought Buzz was "wrong" because she didn't like the movie. I'm just surprised because I expected this movie to be the kind of movie that critics love, but no one else understands. Especially since all the other reviews I had seen were very positive. And, like with all movies, I don't really rely on reviews if I think it's a movie I will like, so yes, I still plan on seeing it. And am excited to do so.
pinkflats pinkflats 9 years
i agree harsh commemts. as a loyal buzzsugar reader, i'll have to defend my girl buzz. she saw the movie and gave her honest opinion on it. if she didn't pick up on the allegorical interpretations, so what? i'm sure no one did unless they did researh before seeing the movie. plus one thing why i enjoy reading buzz's reviews is how it's like talking with your friends about movies. her reviews are not pretentious, and i thank her for that.
Eaving Eaving 9 years
I find myself confused by the review, actually. It seems like you don't like it because each "Dylan" has a different name, and thus makes it more confusing than it ought to be. Then you say the soundtrack is very good, so go buy that instead of spending money on the ticket. Then you comment on how there *are* other things about the movie that we could potentially like, but decline to comment because you don't think we should see it? Are the other things combined another reason to go see it? Just edited because you don't think we should see it, or not mentioned because you think it will make us go and be horribly disappointed. x.X I'm not saying this is a bad review, because I haven't seen it; however, I am saying that it sounds like it didn't do the movie justice (bad film or not). It's human nature to find something we don't like about a film and have it ruined for us (oh, I think we've all had those moments!). I've never classified myself as a Bob Dylan fan and - although intrigued by the movie's premise - wasn't going to go. However, because of this review and others that swing wildly from one extreme to the other, I think I *have* to see it now to simply see what's up with it.
Jinx Jinx 9 years
I love how this movie is already creating so much controversy. :evil:
Phasekitty Phasekitty 9 years
Wow- harsh comments, guys! I personally had little interest in the film to begin with and am not surprised to see this negative review. Films like that are hit or miss and often come off as too pretentious. It's a delicate balance and from the trailer I had a feeling this one might have tipped the scales.
Entertainment Entertainment 9 years
It's true, many people have liked the movie so far. There are negative reviews out there, too, though, Variety and The New Yorker among them.
Entertainment Entertainment 9 years
Dasha — Thanks! I understand that it's an allegory but that doesn't excuse it from being pretentious and unenjoyable. I feel similarly about the movie as this reviewer did. I liked certain things about it. It's a beautiful work from a visual standpoint. Perhaps it would have been more at home in a museum. I find it interesting that you so fiercely believe in a film you haven't yet seen.
bhilb bhilb 9 years
I have a feeling this is just a love it or hate movie. This is the first negative review I've seen of it. I, personally, can't wait to see it, although I'm not sure I'll understand it.
Dasha Dasha 9 years
it sounds like an allegory instead of a straight-on portrayal. I can't believe BuzzSugar is acting so dense. the point is not that they emulate BD himself, but that they portray his transition through different stages in his life, much like Picasso's multicolored creative periods. can't wait to see it. P.S. Palindromes rules.
nicachica nicachica 9 years
awww...i really wanted this to be good! i'm a big Dylan fan so i'll probably end up watching it anyway. :)
krampalicious krampalicious 9 years
regardless, i cannot wait to see this. the good movies are finally upon us, and i'm not going to miss a one.
Jinx Jinx 9 years
Jinx Jinx 9 years
I'll be watching it, at least out of interest. I doubt I need the soundtrack, unless its new, as I have alot of Dylan in my collection already. Pleasantly surprised to hear about ale, and Heath's nude scene! :)
geohiker geohiker 9 years
this sounds like an interesting movie!
kikkoman kikkoman 9 years
I didn't think it was going to get such a bad review. I think I'm going to reserve judgement and see for myself.
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