Writer/director Jim Jarmusch would like the moviegoers who see "Paterson" "to follow Paterson's lead, and become a little more aware of their surroundings" --- and "settle into its quiet". Normally, small "quiet" films are my favorite, as I have written many times, but, for me, "Paterson" is just a little too solemn.
Paterson (Adam Driver) shares his name with the city in New Jersey where he grew up, and now resides with his lovely, artistic wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). He awakens every morning around 6:15 am without the help of an alarm clock. He watches Laura sleep, then arises --- eats his Cheerios alone before he leaves for work driving a city bus, ignoring their English bulldog Marvin (Nellie).
But Paterson is no ordinary bus driver --- he's also a poet. His notebook of renderings is his constant companion. He writes in his bus in the morning before he leaves the garage, and at lunch time, as he eats his homemade sandwich from his old-fashioned lunch pail, which is lined with photos of Laura.
His days pass quietly as he observes the crumbling city through the bus windows, and eavesdrops on the riders' conversations around him. His is a content life. And when he goes home to Laura, she regales him with every new project she's begun. Paterson is a man of few words, and Laura makes up for his stoicism.
At the same time every night, Paterson takes Marvin for a walk and together they end up at the local neighborhood bar where Marvin remains tied outside --- alone --- while Paterson goes in for one beer, and one beer only. Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley) tends bar and keeps track of all the famous people who were originally from Paterson. There are a host of characters who populate the cozy little bar, including Marie (Chasten Harmon) who has been trying for weeks to break up with Everett (William Jackson Harper).
The gist of "Paterson" is that every day may be pretty much the same, but that we should all look for the poetry in life. Jarmusch recognizes that many people live lives that have become too busy, distracting and complicated. And while I think it's admirable that the writer/director would like us to perhaps live a better life --- a quieter life, "Paterson" is too slow --- too simple --- for my enjoyment.
I do like his almost always silent walk to and from work every day. One day, he does stop to speak with a young girl (Sterling Jerins), who's about 10, because he is concerned that she is sitting alone outside of an old, run-down warehouse. She explains that she is waiting for her mother and sister, so Paterson decides to keep her company.
As it turns out, she is also a poet, and she keeps a secret notebook filled with her compositions, just as he does. Eventually her family returns ---and here is my problem. If I, as a mother, found my 10-year-old talking to a complete male stranger, I believe I would have had a very different reaction. But the girl's mother nonchalantly motions to her that it is time to go, and that is that.
"Paterson" also has a running kind of a joke about twins. Laura tells her husband that she dreamed she gave birth to a set, and now, every time Paterson turns around, he's running into twins. Even Jerins' character is a twin. It's a very strange reoccurrence --- and not at all interesting.
Driver plays Paterson well --- he's, shall we say, very silent and thoughtful. Farahani is adorable and full of life, but I never believed their relationship. It's very peculiar --- they rarely do anything together --- and they act like strangers to me.
There's no tension, and in a marriage, that is highly unlikely. At one point, Laura asks for a guitar so she can become a country singing star --- really?? They can't afford the instrument, but Paterson blithely goes along. He goes out every night and leaves her alone, and when he is home, he hides in the basement writing poetry, of which he refuses to make copies.
The best part of "Paterson" is Marvin, hilariously played by Nellie, a female. David and I LOVE English bulldogs --- we'd have one if I were not allergic. But we have our sweetheart, Kirby, who, like Marvin when Paterson and Laura kiss, barks every time David smooches me. Ha! And therein lies my biggest problem with Paterson.
If you are a "dog" person, there is no way you would leave your pet tied up outside a bar every night. Paterson clearly loathes the poor dog, and when Marvin does something he should not have --- but was clearly NOT his fault --- he is punished by Laura. But Marvin exacts his revenge on unfriendly Paterson --- an incident I won't divulge.
When I consider excellent small, quiet films about life as we live it, I think of "Things to Come", the marvelous French movie starring Isabelle Huppert. "Paterson" is perfectly dull.
Opinion: Don't Bother!
Director Jim Jarmusch is from the school of deliberate filmmaking, perfected by the undisputed king of slow, long takes --- Terrence Malick. In Jarmusch's case, all you need to watch is his 2009 movie "The Limits of Control", which should have been named "The Limits of a Moviegoer's Patience".
Jarmusch's latest effort is "Paterson", a small slice-of-life film with virtually no drama. But its simplicity is what makes it charming....or boring, if that's the way it affects you. But I liked what was taking place on the screen, and the understated performances of the cast.
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a married bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. His life is a strict routine of getting up each morning at the same time, going to work, returning home to his wife, Laura (Iranian-born beauty Golshifteh Farahani). After dinner, he walks Marvin to his favorite bar each night (Paterson's favorite bar, not the dog's), where Paterson nurses a single beer. He also ties Marvin to a post outside the bar every night --- which had Jeanne aggravated every time it happened. Apparently there are no dognappers in Paterson, NJ.
Paterson also writes poetry --- albeit not the ones that rhyme. He jots his creative ideas into a small notebook. Meanwhile, Laura is a dreamer and loves to delve into new activities. She is quirkily obsessed with all things that have a distinct black-and-white pattern, like her drapes, her attire and cupcakes she bakes to raise spending money. She is the opposite of her husband, and as the saying goes, opposites attract. They seem happy, but not giddily so.
Much of the movie takes place in Paterson's bar where he chats with Doc, the bartender (Barry Shabaka Henley), and interacts a bit with other patrons. But he doesn't seem to have any real friends, only acquaintances. When driving his bus, he overhears the conversations of riders sitting closest to him, but never joins in.
So what is it about "Paterson" that makes the film appealing? For one, it's a story that the average moviegoer can relate to --- no extravagant lifestyles, no elongated superhero battles, no frantic car chases. Paterson, the bus driver, has simple tastes, but some scenes reveal that the man is more complex than he appears.
For example, I loved his chance encounter with the little girl who also writes poetry --- the "non-rhyming kind". When his bus breaks down, Paterson takes instant charge of the situation and defuses any potential problems. And when a jilted bar patron threatens to blow his own head off, Paterson's decisive intervention prevents what could have been a tragedy. These are small incidents in Paterson's life, but they make up the fabric of his life. And they are memorable movie moments.
And then there's Marvin --- what a dog! He grunts and groans as if he is desperately trying to communicate with Laura and Paterson. When they show affection towards each other, Marvin is quick to butt in. And when the bulldog chews up one of Paterson's prized possessions --- let's just say it's the most emotional reaction we get from Paterson the entire movie.
Jarmusch also throws in small touches of humor, as when Paterson comes home each afternoon to find his mailbox atilt like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The ensuing revelation, which is quite amusing, suggests perhaps a contentious relationship between Paterson and Marvin.
Marvin is played by Nellie, a female dog, and she was awarded a special canine prize at Cannes. But because Nellie died shortly before the festival, her award was presented to her posthumously. And for the record, "Paterson" is decidedly not the tedious affair that was "The Limits of Control".
Opinion: See It Now!