Jim Jarmusch is one of those very artistic directors whose films always seem very much targeted at a niche audience. His latest film, Paterson, is definitely another example of this.
This is a quiet film, a thoughtful film, a film that perhaps demands to be seen in a silent room (that means SILENT, lady in the row in front of me jangling your jewelry about!) and if you’re willing to give the movie some time to grow, it becomes a very bittersweet, beautiful, funny and sad film, all rolled into one.
The film follows the titular character of Paterson. He lives in the titular town of Paterson, New Jersey and his favourite book is the titular epic poem “Paterson” by William Carlos Williams. Paterson (the man) lives a quiet life, and he likes it that way. He gets up, drives the city bus, goes home, has dinner with his wife, walks the dog to the bar, has a drink and goes to bed. All the while he is observing life and turning it into poetry in his secret notebook. His wife, the eccentric Laura, craves a life of excitement, where she owns a cupcake business, sings country music in Nashville and sells artwork. The plot of the movie, insofar as you could call it a plot, follows the couple through a week in their life in Paterson (the town).
Not featured in the film: Paterson (the car). Probably a scheduling conflict.
The film is very much a vehicle for actor Adam Driver to shine, in the role of Paterson (the poe- I mean, the man). Driver has been a growing force in Hollywood for a little while now, but he came to the public conscience in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and has, moreso than any of the other breakout stars from the hit film, really cemented his spot in Hollywood in the year since. Between this, and supporting roles in Midnight Special and the upcoming Scorcese epic Silence, I think we’ll see a lot more of Driver in all facets of Hollywood. In this film, he’s very reserved but very powerful in his performance. He’s not gotten a lot of buzz thus far and therefore this is unlikely, but if you see his name pop up in awards discussion don’t be too surprised.
While Driver is a standout, the rest of the cast is also solid. In particular, Golshifteh Farahani, who portrays Laura, is very good and is a source of much of the film’s humour. As a fun aside, any fans of the director Wes Anderson should keep a lookout for a cameo by Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, the two young actors who anchored Anderson’s film Moonrise Kingdom.
The film itself is very contemplative. It is, of itself, a poem made into a film, which makes sense given that poetry is so important to the film. It’s quiet and beautiful, and it can be funny. It’s also, a lot of the time, quite mundane, and requires a very specific temperament in order to tolerate it. You’d have seen this with poetry in school, I’d imagine. The teacher would hand out a poem that is considered by everyone who knows good poetry to be one of the best. Probably something to do with daffodils. But, despite how great a poem it is, with lots of skipping and rainbows and hidden meanings, most of the class wasn’t interested and were more concerned with the packet of Doritos they intended to consume at recess. It’s like that. If you’re going to be thinking about food, you might not appreciate this film as much
To be fair, not always the easiest thing to forget after having to sit through the idiots talking about the candy bar.
It’s also a funny film, and a sad film. The jokes are all based on repetition, surrounding the routines of Paterson (the town, I mean the man… this is confusing), and it would never really get laugh out loud funny, if it weren’t for one thing – the family dog, Marvin. Marvin provides some of the best characterization you’ll see from a live action dog in any movie for a while, and some of his actions are an absolute hoot. That said, it’s balanced by a lot of melancholy, regret and sadness, so do not go in expecting to roll in the aisles – dog or no dog.
That said, while this is a hard film by its very nature to pin down and describe, I’m going to go ahead and give this one quite a high score. I enjoyed it, and I think for the right audience this film is going to be a great treat to end the year with.
4/5 – a very well-made film with a specific audience in mind. If you like quiet films and/or poems, this might well be a film you need to see.
In what has been a very sad week in the world of film, Another Bloody Critic would like to take a moment at the end of this review to acknowledge the passing of some fantastic people whose lives should always be remembered and cherished.
- Carrie Fisher – the popular actress best known for her role as Leia Organa in the Star Wars movies passed away at the age of 60. A giant of the industry who was always willing to make fun of herself, but also to fight for the causes that she loved, will be and is already greatly missed by the wider community as both a pop culture icon and an inspiration to many. RIP Carrie Fisher.
- Debbie Reynolds – in a tragic case of adding insult to injury, Debbie Reynolds, the veteran actress who famously appeared in films such as Singin’ in the Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, amongst many others, passed away only a day after her daughter Carrie Fisher. One of the greats of Hollywood. RIP Debbie Reynolds.
- George Michael – the pop singer known for an extensive career both as a solo artist and with Wham! also passed away this week. Michael lived a life marred with controversy but was, by all reports, a very generous man and he often appeared in films and television poking fun at his own persona. His music also formed a big part of many movies, including recently (and maybe most notably) as a running gag in the superhero film Deadpool. Another entertainer who will be missed. RIP George Michael.