Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henley, Chasten Harmon
Screened at: Park Ave.,NYC, 11/12/16
Opens: December 27, 2016
Paterson, New Jersey, not the kind of place that will compete with Viking Tours for your two weeks’ vacation, nonetheless has a rich colonial history. It is also the subject of a long, four-books’ epic poem by William Carlos Williams, whose theme is that a human being is like a city in the way both grow and decline. And the city itself is in decline from the looks of Jim Jarmusch’s typically minimalist film. Jarmusch is considered a class-A director though his technique is hardly going to win him an audience outside that of the cineaste who may go to festivals as in Cannes (a much nicer-looking city than Paterson).
Paterson is also the name of Jarmusch’s principal actor in what is largely a two-hander with some quirky others thrown in to make the movie of interest even, perhaps, to those outside the circle of his fans. Paterson (Adam Driver), his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), and his English bulldog Marvin (Nellie) live a subdued life in a subdued town. He drives a bus, and goes through the same ritual daily. She stays at home, sometimes making a little cash baking muffins with her favorite complex design written on the tops in chocolate and surrounding her ramshackle home in a downscale neighborhood. They are lovey-dovey throughout, lying in a bed that’s too small even for one person. He drives the bus, and while he waits for the dispatcher to send him on his way, he writes poetry. The lines are mundane, in one poem praising the brand of matches that he uses, which he finds superior to the Diamond brand in the past. The dispatcher, Donny (Rizwan Manji), tells the driver (like Paterson whose name is also the name of the city, the driver is Adam Driver) his troubles. The dispatcher is behind on his mortgage, his in-laws are visiting, he’s got a rash, and other sundry information of the kind that people state when they don’t realize that “How are you?” doesn’t really mean what it says.
Jarmasch focuses on Marvin, the dog (played by a female), who sits in a comfortable chair, barks when Laura and Paterson kiss, and walks outside well ahead of Paterson. When he feels like, he tilts the mailbox to its side, and in the film’s climactic moment, he does something that would make most people send him to the pound. Quite a climax.
Still, since Paterson is the most mild-mannered leading figure in recent cinematic history, the dog stays.
We also get shots of a bar where everyone knows your name, where Doc (Barry Shabaka) pours the drinks, and where Everett (William Jackson Harper) threatens to shoot up the place because Marie (Chasten Harmon) will no longer give him the time of day.
What looks like an easy role is really complex, making Adam Driver a man to watch. His character’s conversation with a Japanese man (Masatoshi Nagase) are of the sort that you’d expect to make yourself. The film, with its apparent simplicity, does not wear out its almost two hours’ length, but if the Paterson Tourist Office thinks the product placement will drive the tourist industry particularly since the city has a waterfall and some scenic cliffs, the office would be mistaken.
Unrated. 116 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C+
Acting – B+
Technical – A
Overall – B