How do you capture the confounding enigmas and contradictions of Bob Dylan in a fiction feature? If you’re Todd Haynes, you do it by casting six different actors as Dylan, hoping that each will offer some insight into a different facet of the folk-rock legend’s character and artistry. (This from the director who took similarly iconoclastic approaches to the life stories of Karen Carpenter in Superstar and David Bowie in Velvet Goldmine.) Haynes and his cast present Dylan as poet, pilgrim, preacher, prophet, pop star, and outlaw, creating a fantasy biopic full of oblique references that Dylan fans will recognize from the maestro’s lyrics and life story.
Surprisingly, the performer who seems to nail Dylan the best is Cate Blanchett, who won’t let a little thing like gender stop her from offering an uncanny recreation of the Dylan captured by documentarian D.A. Pennebaker in 1967’s Don’t Look Back, Like that Dylan, who was at the height of his early fame and at his world-shaking creative peak, Blanchett’s Bob is sneering and elusive, challenging fans and critics alike, refusing to conform to anyone else’s notion of what (s)he ought to be .
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