The concept is as simple to describe as it is audacious to behold: a portrait of Bob Dylan not as a chronological biopic but rather as the sum of his influence and influences and of the many fragmentary identities he has donned. The movie begins and ends with the musician's near-fatal 1966 motorcycle crash and proceeds to resurrect him a half-dozen times in between, most iconically as "Jude Quinn" (the astonishing Cate Blanchett), who stands in for Dylan at the height of his '60s zeitgeist power, and most irreverently as "Woody Guthrie" (Marcus Carl Franklin), a preteen African-American boy riding boxcars through the American South circa 1950. (Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, and Richard Gere are also along for the ride.) It sounds like a recipe for the most pretentious movie ever made, by a director, Todd Haynes, whose best work (Safe, Far From Heaven) has never fully belied his Brown University semiotics education. But I'm Not There turns out to be a triumph of intellect and cinematic imagination that leaves most conventional movie biopics looking clueless. Haynes pulls off the seemingly impossible: He takes one of the most discussed, written-about, imitated, lusted-after public figures of the 20th century and shows us not something new but something deeper a pop-culture star-child hurtling through the cosmos under our immortalizing gaze.
Todd HaynesCate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Ben WhishawTodd Haynes, Oren MovermanChristine Vachon, John RosenThe Weinstein Co.