“PATERSON” My rating: A-
118 minutes | MPAA rating: R
Nothing much happens in “Paterson.” Just life.
Turns out that’s more than enough.
The film — about a poetry-writing bus driver named Paterson who lives and works in Paterson NJ — feels like the movie Jim Jarmusch and his seriocomic minimalism have been working toward for decades.
Virtually devoid of conventional melodrama, “Paterson” is about life’s little moments. The most exciting thing that happens is a bus breakdown that forces the driver and passengers to wait at the roadside for an hour.
And yet by concentrating on the little things, the seemingly unremarkable ins and outs of just living, the deadpan hilarity of existence, Jarmusch makes a profound statement about average people living average lives.
The only other film to which I can compare Jarmusch’s latest is Bruce Beresford’s sublime “Tender Mercies,” another film that ignores “events” to observe the gentle unfolding of life.
Paterson (Adam Driver, who gets more out of less than we have any right to expect) has a routine.
Every morning he fixes breakfast and walks to the bus terminal where he climbs into a driver’s seat. Every morning his supervisor sends him off after grousing a bit about the unfairness of life.
Paterson spends his day driving around listening to the conversations of his passengers. He also seems to be a magnet for twins…identical siblings of all ages regularly cross his path.
At home he listens patiently and lovingly to the stream-of-consciousness patter of his beautiful wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), whose chiildlike eagerness defies common sense.
Curtain by curtain, throw rug by throw rug, Laura is turning their bland little house into a black-and-white Keith Haring-inspired wonderland. She buys a mail order guitar (it’s black and white, naturally) with the certainty that country stardom awaits her.
If Paterson thinks his ditzy wife’s ambitions are unrealistic, he still indulges them. They are majorly in love.
After dinner he takes their bulldog Marvin for a walk. (If there were an animal Oscar, Marvin — played by a female named Nellie — would blow away the competition).
Their perambulations invariably take them to a neighborhood bar where the owner, Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley), pours Paterson one beer. They trade stories about the history of their city and observe the romantic death throes of two other regulars (Chasten Harmon, William Jackson Harper).
But Paterson doesn’t feel he’s in a rut. That’s because in his spare time he’s a poet. His subject matter may be pedestrian (a celebration of the Ohio Blue Tip match brand), but his execution is terrific. His art gives him immense satisfaction.
He may not be happy in the upbeat everything’s-going-my-way style of the song. But he’s satisfied. And “Paterson” is, in its weird, heartwarming way, an immensely satisfying and terrifically poetic movie.
| Robert W. Butler