Midway through I’m Not There, director Todd Haynes’s soon-to-open film fantasia in which Bob Dylan is played by six different actors to signify different phases in the life of the Bard of Hibbing, the Australian actress Cate Blanchett pops up—and as was the case with her appearance as Kate Hepburn in The Aviator, Blanchett makes it immediately clear that this is an Oscar™ role.
Though Blanchett is strenuously coiffed and made up to look like Dylan, with a frizzy wig and Ray-Bans and loose-fitting shirts, never for a moment do you forget that this is Cate Blanchett Acting The Hell Out Of This Role. The clatter of Blanchett’s acting drowns out everything around her.
Within the cubist style of the movie, it isn’t particularly surprising to see a woman play Dylan—he’s also played here by a black kid calling himself “Woody Guthrie.” To have a black kid portray the larval Dylan makes a kind of sense, since, as a troubadour in training, young Robert Zimmerman cooked up a Guthrie-like legend for himself to hide his shame over his white middle-classness while singing about Blind Willie McTell. But there is nothing feminine about Dylan in this movie.
And yet, Blanchett’s wisp of a figure and porcelain cheekbones make it impossible to forget this is a drag performance. In a scene in which her Dylan chases an Edie Sedgwick-like object of obsession around a park, she doesn’t seem remotely masculine. She gives off no sexual hunger, no sense of need. In the end, all Blanchett ever needs in any film is our rapt attention.