As a lifelong fan of Bob Dylan, I was obviously curious about this film, and in particular about the performance of Cate Blanchett which has generated much of the buzz surrounding it.
So what I can tell you after finally seeing it tonight, is that the buzz around Blanchett's performance as Jude Quinn — one of the six different personas portrayed here based on various phases of Dylan's career — is definitely deserved. Blanchett nails Dylan cold during his mid-sixties transformation from young folk saviour to rock icon. It is probably the best performance of Blanchett's career.
The historical references here are also for the most part dead on. Blanchett plays the cool, detached Dylan — or excuse me, Jude Quinn — to a tee, as he is booed off the stage at the "New England Folk Festival," and called Judas by an audience member at a performance In England. We also presumably discover the identity of the "Mr. Jones" journalist who was the subject of Dylan's scorn in the song "Ballad Of a Thin Man."
Beyond that, this film is wrapped up in so much enigmatic mystery that — much like Dylan's career itself — it is probably going to take several more viewings to completely figure it out.
What I will tell you, is that for all of the hoopla given Blanchett's performance (and deservedly so), there are several other noteworthy turns here. In fact, for my money the guy who really best captures the essence of Dylan here is Christian Bale as Jack Rollins, doing double duty as the early sixties saviour of radical folkies, and later as the late seventies recluse who found Jesus in a southern California church. Julianne Moore also does an outstanding job as the Joan Baez-esque Alice.
Heath Ledger, in one of his final roles, also does a bang-up job as the rock star trying to maintain a family life with wife Claire (substitute Sara here), played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, looking for all the world like a Horses-era Patti Smith. Young Marcus Carl Franklin also does a great job as the child prodigy "Woody Guthrie." As for Richard Gere's role, I couldn't really figure this one out, at least outside of the connection to Dylan's role in the music and small role in the film Pat Garrett And The Billy The Kid (can you say "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," anyone?).
There are also several great cameos here, by people like Ritchie Havens and My Morning Jacket's Jim James. But again, like Dylan's career itself, there is much here that remains to be figured out. And it is going to require several more viewings.
Such is the joy of unraveling the enigma that is Bob Dylan.