Sometimes, a film just needs to be a film. There doesn’t have to be a moral to the story or linear storytelling or even a story itself, and such is the case for Jim Jarmusch’s latest opus, “Paterson”.
All you really need to know is that it takes place in Paterson, New Jersey where a bus driver named Paterson (Adam Driver) lives and works while aspiring to be a poet and deal with the love of his live, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), a dreamer and artist who supports her man whole heartedly in her own way. The tale unfolds over seven days of Paterson’s life, starting on Monday morning and working through the following weekend as he goes to work, comes home, walks their dog Marvin, and stops at a bar for a drink on his way back.
I mean, that’s really about it.
Normally, films of this nature tend to grind my gears a bit, and there were aspects of it that did get to me like the pacing (which moves at about the pace of a first-time Segway user, with about the same level of awkwardness). Each day takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to total a run time of right at two hours, and it can be painstakingly slow. Outside of that, I did find myself a bit fascinated by “Paterson” on a couple of different levels. First off, I felt like it portrayed the life of an everyman better than most “reality” shows can, even though this is just as scripted. It definitely flirted with redundancy in a few spots, but then again, that is what life tends to be when we become grown-ups. Also, due to the fact that there is no real storyline to deal with, it will be fairly easy for different people to take different things away from it. It gets kind of artsy, but not in a way where the film gets away from itself like I felt about “Knight of Cups” or “The Neon Demon” or even “Nocturnal Animals” on a certain level. “Paterson” stays between the lines and for me just looked to show kind of a “slice of life” kind of deal where the audience is meant to be more of a voyeur than a participant. There are also some themes within it that can be explored (the use of twins or pairs of things, Paterson’s almost laissez faire about most things including a section where he talks to some local “thugs” about Marvin being a valuable dog that could be “dog jacked,” and even his fascination simply about the local waterfalls) that some will catch and some will not, which could further any discussion to be had amongst a group after viewing it.
The chemistry between Driver and Farahani works really well here, with both of these talented actors selling their characters’ love for one another in a way that is grounded and believable: Paterson wanting to be Laura’s everything while still not understanding quite where her mind is going at any one time and Laura wanting to be Paterson’s everything while not understanding quite where his road is leading, which she believes is by his own choice. She wants him to be the poet he wants to be, but something is holding him back from being “all in,” which is a problem that she does not appear to have. She wants to have her own cupcake business as well as being a designer and country music superstar as well as whichever way the wind takes her, and he prefers a bit more structure than that. There is also a nice appearance by Cliff Smith (also known as hip-hop legend Method Man) and a great performance by another person on my list of underrated actors, Barry Shabaka Henley, who plays Doc, the bartender at Paterson’s local watering hole. (You may remember him as a cameo actor in a number of AFLAC commercials back in the day; he is one of those guys that you look up and go, “OH, THAT guy!”)
I am not sure that “Paterson” is a film that I could deal with on the level of multiple viewings, but if I were talking to someone that had a marginal interest in it and I had nothing going on, I might partake in it with them. Granted, it might be better for me in some form of home viewing where I could come and go as I pleased, knowing what was coming up in the story, but for the discussion afterwards, it might be worth it.