In the sublime new film from Jim Jarmusch, Adam Driver gives a career-best performance as Paterson, a bus driver in the New Jersey city of the same name. He's also a poet, recording his daily observations and thoughts into a notebook. Paterson thrives on routine: he drives his bus route, he goes home for dinner with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), he walks his dog, he visits his local bar for one beer. By contrast Laura's world is ever-changing, with new projects and ideas striking her daily. The film quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.
A film by the people for the people, Paterson is a contemplative take on the poetry of ordinary life - if that makes any sense for anyone still eager to learn how I’m ultimately scoring Jim Jarmusch’s piece. See, Paterson draws a fine line between artistic, indie films and slow-paced, boring wannabe dramas that ultimately lead up to nowhere in particular. Therefore, I can proudly exclaim that Jarmusch has outdone himself this time, and not for the better I might add.
First off, Paterson slaps poetic repetition in your face: a public sight for everyone to see and cherish. So, Adam Driver who plays Paterson, is a bus driver in Paterson. He also aspires to become a poet; well, not really become, but rather to extract poetry from seemingly ordinary, everyday things such as a plethora of different twins in and around Paterson (the town), lunchboxes, subversive chess plays in tough guy locales and so forth. Paterson (the guy), needless to say, is also fond of writing his own poetry, which is then audibly presented to the audience several times over. Was this really necessary? The answer is no: it’s recited one times too many.
Paterson features extraordinary ‘segments’ that somehow spill onto the real world the characters inhabit. Like his girlfriend Laura’s (Golshifteh Farahani) paintings which slowly start to engulf Paterson’s (the guy) setting. Even the dog Marvin falls into this category, by carefully obfuscating the omnipresence that is Paterson (the town).
Everything is out of place, yet everything feels neat and orderly in the community of Paterson.
Venturing deeper and one can almost sense the shortcomings of Paterson: lack of real conflict with real consequences. This goes without saying, but why anyone should care what happens in a film if no action is anteceded by a logical, or even illogical reaction? Paterson and Laura rarely ever argue; in fact – they never do. The weather is always nice; the people are always friendly, even when a gun is being drawn out in a bar – we proceed to learn that the gun is a fake.
Furthermore, Laura and Adam seem isolated from real world consequences: no TV, no Internet, no news, no anything. Even when Paterson’s bus breaks down – nothing really seems to be bothering our main protagonist. And that is all fine and dandy, but is sadly not captivating enough to be stretched about nearly one and a half hour more than what is needed.
Paterson by Jim Jarmusch overstays its welcome by a large stretch of a margin.
Finally, is Paterson worth seeing? Well, it depends on who you’re asking. The arty-partsy film critic would embrace Paterson as if it was the second coming itself; the street thug would dismiss Paterson as the Emperor’s new clothes; the middle-aged film buff would neither love, nor hate it.
How about what’s left? Well Paterson probably doesn’t play in a theater near the average citizen – so we can never know for sure.