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I'm Not There (2007)



Average Rating: 7/10
Reviews Counted: 156
Fresh: 120 | Rotten: 36

I'm Not There's unique editing, visuals, and multiple talented actors portraying Bob Dylan make for a deliciously unconventional experience. Each segment brings a new and fresh take on Dylan's life.


Average Rating: 7.1/10
Critic Reviews: 43
Fresh: 32 | Rotten: 11

I'm Not There's unique editing, visuals, and multiple talented actors portraying Bob Dylan make for a deliciously unconventional experience. Each segment brings a new and fresh take on Dylan's life.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 113,041

My Rating

Movie Info

This re-enactment of the life of musician, Bob Dylan, features multiple actors embodying different stages in the singer's life.



Todd Haynes, Oren Moverman

May 6, 2008


The Weinstein Co. - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (159) | Top Critics (44) | Fresh (120) | Rotten (36) | DVD (6)

There are those who will applaud what Haynes and his actors have accomplished, and I can understand its appeal on an intellectual level. But I am not a supporter of film without form or art without structure.

January 4, 2008 Full Review Source: ReelViews | Comments (4)
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Only devout Dylan fans will be able to derive much sense out of it. Dylan novices can only sit back and surrender to the ride Haynes offers: It's a strange, surreal trip.

November 30, 2007
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

How does it feeeel? Like a rolling shambles, much of it, and even a second viewing doesn't erase the sensation.

November 30, 2007 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

To enjoy I'm Not There you should be just a little bit Dylan-crazy, fascinated by his talent, ornery personality and enduring cultural influence.

November 30, 2007 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I think it's really interesting stuff and I enjoyed every aspect of it.

November 27, 2007
Ebert & Roeper
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It doesn't all work and it runs too long. But every fragment of Dylan's life, every version of him, from the funny to the tippy, rings true.

November 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I'm Not There is a very special kind of life and times. It leaves ordinary musical biopics like Ray and Walk the Line and Beyond the Sea in the dust.

April 28, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

Haynes' film has no straight lines, it is all collage and pastiche and an endless series of intersections that all, quite improbably, lead to a startlingly accurate (if abstracted) vision of the many faces of Dylan.

June 12, 2010 Full Review Source: DCist

Where is the defiant, sensuous expansiveness of Dylan's songs?

August 27, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

I'm Not There is coy and fatuous, but it also can be intriguing and thought-provoking. But I'm Not There makes us consider Dylan with new eyes.

February 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Fayetteville Free Weekly
Fayetteville Free Weekly

Abstract expressionism, paying tribute to its hero in a fashion every bit as enigmatic and chameleon-like as the man himself. Is it a faux-documentary? Is it a biographical drama? At times, it is both. In the end, we are left with an ambitious misfire.

June 13, 2008 Full Review Source: San Francisco Examiner | Comments (3)
San Francisco Examiner

Full of Dylanology, Dylanography and Dylanerbole... if that's your thing

May 22, 2008 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

The director's disappointment in Dylan's downward metamorphosis from outlaw poet, prophet and political idealist to cynic, egotist, wasted stoner, Jesus freak and recluse, is palpable, with a symbolic dirge for a body that has outlived its art.

May 7, 2008 Full Review Source: NewsBlaze

Haynes is brilliant at tearing off the top of his own head and giving audiences a peek into his pop obsessions.

May 1, 2008 Full Review Source: MSNBC

Not particularly entertaining or enlightening, but it is slow-moving and long.

April 16, 2008 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

Uma das cinebiografias mais atípicas e, por isto mesmo, mais fiéis ao espírito criativo de seu biografado que já tive o prazer de assistir.

March 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Cinema em Cena
Cinema em Cena

Director Todd Haynes takes an artistic leap, I just don't want to catch all of the finished product.

March 4, 2008 Full Review Source: The Scorecard Review
The Scorecard Review

So self-aware and dull, you wonder what's the point of Haynes being experimental if his experiment doesn't yield something that's compelling or, at the very least, entertaining. Insight might have been a goal, but there's no insight here.

February 10, 2008 Full Review Source: Bangor Daily News (Maine)
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Perhaps the whole weird, scattershot thing might play better when you can skip-search to your favorite bits.

January 31, 2008 Full Review Source:

It doesn't strike me that this multi-metaphorical experiment succeeds in illuminating a soaring talent who keeps his private life private and has always denied the hungry press any hints about the meanings in his songs.

January 28, 2008 Full Review Source: Cinema Signals
Cinema Signals

I'm Not There becomes another boomer ode to the cultural supremacy of the sixties.

January 15, 2008 Full Review | Comment (1)

The iconoclastic film about the idiosyncratic artist is truly an inventive film but not an easy one to come to grips with or instantly enjoy.

January 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

By mirroring Dylan's concepts with his music and avoiding both the biographical route and the songs-tell-a-story route, Haynes creates the most provocative, electric examination of an artist in years.

December 30, 2007 Full Review Source:

...a kind of filmic Dylan song, allusive and evocative and purposefully, poetically ambiguous.

December 28, 2007 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

It's brilliant, demanding, exasperating; it's undramatic but absorbing, more enigmatic than revealing, up itself and wildly inventive.

December 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald

Audience Reviews for I'm Not There

I've spoken in the past about the various problems associated with making biopics. In my review of Ed Wood I commented that there is a continual clash between "the supposedly objective, historical record of events and the subjective sensibility of the filmmaker", which can only be resolved if the filmmaker makes his or her intentions clear from the outset.

I'm Not There is an audacious twist on the biographical genre, which like its contemporary Capote maintains a level of distance and detachment from the character it is depicting or inspired by. Todd Haynes gives us a handful of characters or personas, each playing a different part of Bob Dylan's character in isolation from the others. Ultimately the film never quite comes together like Haynes' previous work, but it deserves a lot of credit for its originality and moments of brilliance.

Whether by merit or by reputation, Bob Dylan is one of the hardest celebrities to put on screen. He is in the company of Marilyn Monroe, Peter Sellers and John Lennon, being someone of so many identities and contradicting parts that any performance risks being just a good impression or pleasing caricature. And that's before we get into the legal battle surrounding the previous attempt to depict him, in the Edie Sedgwick biopic Factory Girl. Dylan's lawyers argued that the character Billy Quinn was a means of implicating Dylan in Sedgwick's death, and attempted to stop the film being released until they were satisfied that their client wasn't being defamed. Considering that the Dylan cipher was being played by Hayden Christiansen, you have to wonder why they bothered.

From this perspective, splitting Dylan into six different personas (none of whom are called Bob Dylan) makes perfect sense. It allows Haynes to have the best of both worlds, giving us all the detail we need in focussing on small sections of Dylan's life, and allowing the director to express his opinion in the demarcations he makes between the characters. We get from the very start that it's a personal interpretation of Dylan's life and legacy, and the amount of detail that goes into evoking each period compensates for any feeling that what we are seeing may not be entirely accurate.

In terms of the actual performances of 'Dylan', they are quite a mixed bag. The best performance by a county mile is Cate Blanchett, who takes on the Jude Quinn persona of Dylan circa 1965, when he was booed at the Newport Folk Festival for playing an electric guitar. Blanchett plays Quinn as a skeletal, disaffected, cynical Dylan, rarely seen without his cigarettes or sunglasses, openly mocking the people around him and seeming to not give a damn about what anyone says or thinks of him. Blanchett brilliantly conveys the feeling of someone whose success has painted them into a corner, and who responded by deliberately alienating his 'fans' - a tactic which culminated in the 1970 album Self-Portrait, which Dylan described in interviews as a joke to get people off his back.

The only downside to Blanchett's performance is that it leaves the other Dylans in the movie feeling overshadowed. Christian Bale is very good as both the young protest singer of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and the born-again gospel musician on Slow Train Coming. It's much more of an impression but is still convincing, especially considering he has the greatest character leap in the whole film. On the downside, Ben Whishaw feels underused and a little flat, Richard Gere effectively plays himself, and Heath Ledger doesn't look, sound or feel right. You might argue that on this last occasion it doesn't matter, since he's playing an actor playing the Christian Bale character. But there's something about his performance which feels forced, and we struggle to empathise with him during his scenes.

Whether in and of itself or because of the varying performances, the central device of I'm Not There sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. On the good side, the inclusion of Marcus Carl Franklin as 'Woody Guthrie' does make sense. Guthrie was Dylan's childhood idol, and by having the character played by a black actor, it conveys the idea that both artists have their musical roots in old slave songs and the blues. Guthrie's guitar case, which carries the slogan 'This Machine Kills Fascists', is a further reflection of the characters' shared interest in the politics of their day, whether the Great Depression or the Cold War.

The other interesting idea brought out by the device is the idea of celebrity being something intangible. Just as it can be hard nowadays to rationalise what certain people are famous for, so I'm Not There depicts Dylan's celebrity as something which cannot ever be fully grasped or described beyond the recognition that he probably deserves it. It's a welcome admission on the part of Haynes that someone as influential as Dylan cannot be reduced down to a single performance in a two-hour film - or at least, not one of this scope.

But here too there is a problem. Since Haynes is effectively admitting the impossibility of depicting Dylan, you could make the argument that the film could have just been made about the Jude Quinn character. Out of all the personas, Blanchett's is the most dramatically interesting, the most controversial, and the most in keeping with the central themes. The film would have been more thematically and narratively focussed if it attempted a deconstruction of this character and his mythos, akin to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. As it is, I'm Not There is a film of many interesting parts which only occasionally connect.

The part of the film which most indicates this shambolic feeling is the section which Roger Ebert described as "the Richard Gere cowboy sequence". Gere plays outlaw Billy the Kid, who has gone into hiding from lawman Pat Garrett. These scenes are intended to pastiche Dylan's performance in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, as well as conveying Dylan's nature as an outsider. But instead they feel like one long non-sequitur, with vague ideas about justice and rebellion coming to the fore but never being developed. Gere looks and feels out of place, like he had slept for thirty years and woke up thinking he was still in Days of Heaven.

This sequence points to the biggest problem with I'm Not There, namely that it never truly gets under the skin of its main character. The film has a similar problem to The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, in that it recreates key events from Dylan's life without explaining why they are so significant. While Dylan fans will relish in the detail and pick up on every reference to his back catalogue, the film doesn't provide any real way in for the casual viewer who may be coming to Dylan for the first time. And like Gandhi, it relies all too often on us being interested in the reputation of the man, when what is really interesting and engaging is the different aspects of his character. In short the film gives us a number of performances, all of them artistically interesting but none of them particularly empathetic.

The same goes for the some of the wonderful imagery contained in the film. One of the best moments comes when Dylan begins performing in Newport: his bands open their instrument cases, produce machine guns and proceed to open fire on their audience. It's a brilliant metaphor for the feeling of betrayal that surrounded Dylan's decision to go electric, and its rebellious quality recalls the ending of If..... But as much as we admire this moment, it still feels like a moment rather than a piece in a bigger theme or narrative. At its lowest points the film could just pass for a series of music videos, taking Dylan's music and pairing it with the oddest choice of images.

I'm Not There is an admirable failure which contains moments of brilliance and insight but never entirely pulls itself together. It is possible to enjoy it purely for the music, and Haynes' status as a visually intriguing director remains assured. But all the good moments, especially Cate Blanchett's performance, make its shortcomings all the more disappointing. Dylan fans will be glued to its every move; the rest of us will wonder what all the fuss is about.
August 25, 2012
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

For my money, this is one of the best biopics ever made, perhaps particularly because its goal was to not make a butterfly pinned to the wall of its subject. Ever the chameleon, Dylan is portrayed here as six different characters that reflect an aspect of his persona, and all of their stories are brought to plausible endings, beyond what Dylan did with these identities, of course, because he never carried one persona from beginning to end. That the director, Todd Haynes, approaches his subject in this manner is in a way brilliant, especially in the scenes in which the Cate Blanchett-portrayed Jude refused to let the BBC reporter call him (her?) anything in the interview, repeatedly worming away from any attempt to pin him down. Blanchett might have been my favourite of the six - and Gere the least, I thought his storyline was extraneous - but overall, this is a brilliantly conceived, unorthodox biopic, and by making itself aware of the limits of its genre, it has perhaps transcended it. High art, in my mind, one of the sharper films made in recent years, and one that exposes all the best and worst and most challenging points of the biographical film. Loved it.
July 17, 2012

Super Reviewer

I have spent a week contemplating what to say about this movie and still I'm left speechless. I'll always be left speechless, I think. This might be the first movie I've been left simultaneously awed and confused as hell. And by awed I mean AWED the highest extent of the word.Of course I've got to give credit to ALL the Bob Dylans, not just Cate Blanchett. Each aspect of Dylan's character could be a stand-alone story by itself. Heath Ledger's story in particular made me cry because it was so beautiful and sad and flustered and self-assured all at once. I love how Haynes enmeshes each discrete style with a particular embodiment of Dylan, from grainy documentary to 8 1/2 Fellini to crackly b&w to expansive Western. The music is so perfectly selected, it's magical. Haynes is a true auteur: methodical, original, and COOL. I cannot believe freaking Jason Reitman got an Oscar nomination when there's genius like Haynes lying around. But I'm Not There will remain at the selectively viewed area like all art films, like it or not.I don't really understand it, but that is part of the appeal. I WANT to understand. Please help me understand, Bob Dylan.
July 30, 2011

Super Reviewer

I could be wrong, but I believe this is probably the most challenging and befuddling film I've ever seen. Be warned though, this is not a "straight" bio-pic about Dylan, and the unconventional manner in which things are done will likely simultaneously frustrate and excite those who experience it: just like Dylan himself. Unique is a great word to describe the man and this film. It's quite ambitious, and, really, probably the only way to capture the man on film (aside from legit documentaries or concert films).

SUmmarzining this film isn't easy, and it really doesn't provide much insight or answers, but I'm pretty sure that's the point. I wonder what the man himself thinks of this? Aside from song credits at the end and an opening label which states, "Inspired by the music and many lives of Bob Dylan", the name Bob Dylan is not once spoken or seen during thr film. For that ,and the way this movie unfolds, I give a big salute. That's ballsy. I mean, this is made by the same guy who made a movie about Karen Carpenter starring Barbie dolls, which in itself is unique, but to make a movie about a man and not really do it, and do so unapologetically- that takes true courage,

The more you know about Bob Dylan, and the more you like and are familiar with his work, the better whe nit comes to this film. While it's not impossible for someone unfamiliar with Dylan to see this movie and get into him afterwards, it seems unlikely. I'm neither a newbie or a diehard, so some of the references and easter eggs (of which there are an uncalculable amount) went over my head, but I got a lot out of this nonetheless.

One of the most talked about aspects of this movie is how six people (seven if you think the narrator counts) are cast as Dylan, por rather, various aspects of his life, career, and persona. The title of the film is probably the most appropriate film title I've seen in quite some time. So, given the enigmatic nature of the man and the movie, you can argue that the point is that it's not about him, and it's not supposed to be, but it's really about perceptions of the artist instead. The casting choice is truly inspired: the six people are made up of 5 adults, 1 youth, 5 males, 1 female, 4 caucasians, one African American, 2 Auusies, a Brit, someone who's Welsh, and two Americans. If you count the narrator, you need to add 1 white American man to the totals.

Marcus Carl Franklin and Richard Gere represent young and old mythological tall tale aspects of the entity in question. Christian Bale represents both the acoustic folk and (later) born again Christian eras. LEdger makes up the personal and romantic aspects of the life, while Whishaw represents an elliptical trickster providing responses to questions. The one who garnered the most attention, and who truly steals the show, is Cate Blanchett. She represents the Mid-sixties era which included "turning electric" and being involved in a motorcycle accident that may have been anything but that.

All of them do an excellent job, but the ones who shine thje most are Frnaklin and Blanchett and that's not just because they are a woman and a black kid. LEdger and Bale tie one another when it comes to how they rank. Whishaw is good, just not used too much. GEre is good, but just underwhelming. The sequences involving him are just too tedious and uninteresting to me. One could say the same about the Bale sequences since it's obvious Haynes doesn't dwell on them enough, instead focusing on the Blanchett stuff, which is the most interesting.

Once again, I'll make a comparison to Dylan by saying that the film eschews traditional notions about how something is done (or should be), and presents things in a non-linear, elliptical style which uses different shooting styles, color, B & W, documentary style, etc. As I said earlier, this makes things very frustrating and hard to get into, but yet, it all kinda works somehow, well, almost.

As a "movie" this doesn't work at all, kind of like "The Passion of the Christ". If you view this as an experimental art piece, it's better, but not a masterpiece. Same with "The Passion..". It works well as an "experience", but not as something else.

If you've read this far into it, you should know whether or not this is for you. I'll admit that I did get a little bored, and some of it is tedious and drags here and there (the film idoesn't need to be 135 mins), but I was floored by what I was seeing. Now that I think about it, Dylan probably does get a kick out of this. We'll never know though, just like the truth about him. The movie blends fact with fiction, making it hard to discern truth and reality, and in a way ,that's good, because it spoils the mystery and the puzzle- the answer to which is probably very disappointing and underwhelming anyway.

I've rambled enough about this, but it's hard to really say something concrete and definitive about this- just like how it is with the real Bob Dylan, who or whatever that may be.... ;)
August 15, 2010
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

    1. Billy: People are always talking about freedom. Freedom to live a certain way, without being kicked around. Course the more you live a certain way, the less it feel like freedom. Me, uhm, I can change during the course of a day. I wake and I'm one person, when I go to sleep I know for certain I'm somebody else. I don't know who I am most of the time.
    – Submitted by Carlos M (13 months ago)
    1. Arthur: 7 simple rules for life in hiding: 1. Never trust a cop in a rain coat 2. Beware of enthusiasm and of love, each is temporary and quick to sway 3. When asked if you care about the worlds problems, look deep into the eyes of he who asks, he will not ask you again. 4 & 5. Never give your real name, and if told to look at yourself, never look. 6. Never do or say anything that the person standing in front of you cannot understand. 7. Never create anything, it will be misinterpreted, it will chain you and follow you the rest of your life, it will never change.
    – Submitted by Jeppe S (21 months ago)
    1. Jude: Either be groovy or leave, man
    – Submitted by Ivana N (3 years ago)
View all quotes (3)

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