'Soft' Box Office for Bob Dylan Film: Too Much of Nothing?

Article excerpt

Despite surprisingly strong reviews, the Todd Haynes film about, or at least inspired, by Bob Dylan, "I'm Not Here," opened weakly at the box office the past five days. Those who tally box office numbers described it as a "soft" landing, in a limited release to 130 theaters.

It grossed just under $1 million since Wednesday, which translated to a disappointing total per screen of $7,762 for five days. That slid to $5,823 from Friday to Sunday, suggesting bad word-of-mouth.

"Enchanted" opened big at $53 million, the second highest Thanksgiving intro ever.

Perhaps Cate Blanchett will earn a Golden Globes nod for supporting actress to help boost the "I'm Not There" box office, if the film sticks around that long. Despite inexplicably favorable reviews, word-of-mouth could indeed be weak. A friend who also saw the movie, in Chicago, reports numerous walk outs.

A fair portion of the movie shows Blanchett, as electric Bob, sparring with the press, one British reporter in particular. Those scenes are often a mess, like much of the rest of the movie, and poorly written. There's not a moment in those sequences as hysterical and revealing as one scene in the recent PBS Martin Scorcese documentary, "No Direction Home," now available on DVD.

It catches a press photographer, at a news conference during the same 1966 tour featured in the movie, asking the young folk-turned-rock star to pose for a picture.

"Suck on your glasses," the gentleman instructs.

Dylan, fingering his Ray-bans, rebels. "You want me to suck on my glasses?" he asks incredulously.

"Just suck your glasses," the photog advises.

"Do YOU want to suck my glasses?" Dylan asks, and he hands them over. The man, yes, sucks on his glasses. "Anybody else want to suck them?" Bob wonders.

This exchange was only one of several press games/battles that played a key role in the documentary, as Dylan burns out, not just from the boos that greeted his switch from acoustic to electric but from inane questioning by the press. The doc ends with Dylan begging for a long vacation, followed by end notes revealing that he had his famous motorcycle accident a few months later--and then did not tour for seven years. That's one way to Beat the Press.

The new Haynes movie does try to portray some of that -- if you can sit through it that long. At two hours and fifteen minutes it's, to coin a phrase, too much of nothing. And that comes from someone who actually got dozens of the little "in" jokes ("See you later, Allen Ginsberg" etc.). Too young to have experienced Dylan in the time frame of this movie, Haynes is just guessing here.

The media angle is fascinating, however. Dylan always had a combative relationship with reporters, and wrote one of the most scathing and influential attacks on the press (at least it 's been interpreted that way) in modern times, "Ballad of A Thin Man. …