Paterson is a unique, character drama that holds a microscope to New Jersey’s life and culture.
In Paterson, Adam Driver stars as the eponymous Paterson, a Paterson, New Jersey bus driver who spends his days driving the 23 bus, listening to passengers’ conversations, and writing poetry during his breaks. At night, he interacts with his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and eats dinner with her. Later, he takes his dog Marvin for a walk and stops at his favorite bar, where he is a frequent patron.
The film follows the title character Paterson, as he goes about his daily routine of driving the bus, thinking and writing poetry, and hanging out at the bar each night.
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, Paterson is a film that accurately shows New Jersey’s blue collar life and culture and praises its down-to-earth characters. Like in his other films (Only Lovers Left Alive, Dead Man, Broken Flowers), Jarmusch chooses to focus on character than plot to tell this interesting story about an everyman who drives a bus for a living and writes poetry based on the things he encounters in his life. As a result, Paterson is a unique, character drama that holds a microscope to New Jersey’s life and culture.
As mentioned, Paterson’s central narrative is very different from the conventional plot found in Hollywood movies. The film lacks a clear plot and instead highlights a week-in-the-life of the title character. Here we see our main protagonist wake up next to his wife, go to work, say hi to his fellow co-worker, drive the bus around town, and listen to people talking, etc. While some viewers may find this film boring and unfocused, others will find enjoyment in watching a movie about a normal guy. Like real life, the film shows the run-of-the-mill lifestyle the protagonist goes about every day in his life. He doesn’t encounter much conflict or change anything in his routine. Paterson is a regular guy just like everyone else. With that said, the character’s journey is interesting to watch but is only fascinating to see on the first viewing. The film lacks the “rewatchability” factor of other movies, by comparison. Still, Paterson is worth a watch—thanks to the central performance by Adam Driver.
Adam Driver, who has gained recognition with roles in Midnight Special and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, gives a charismatic performance as the lead character. Driver has the most screen time of all the actors, so it’s more impressive that he manages to make Paterson’s life interesting and engaging to watch, as the character interacts with an eclectic group of characters during the day and night.
Supporting actors Golshifteh Farahani, William Jackson Harper, and Barry Shabaka Henley deliver solid performances in their respective roles. Farahani, who plays Paterson’s wife, Laura, has the most screen time of the supporting players, which allowed her to make Laura a multi-faceted character with ambitions, passions, and idiosyncrasies. Harper and Henley have smaller roles but steal the scene whenever they’re onscreen. Harper, who plays Everett, is one of the most interesting minor characters of Paterson—thanks to Harper’s sympathetic performance. Everett has a hard time getting over a break-up. Whenever he’s in the bar around his ex-girlfriend, comedy ensues. Henley, who plays bar owner Doc, likewise shines in the scenes he appears in. His onscreen chemistry with Driver makes for interesting banter and drama.
For those who are looking for a film with realistic, down-to-earth characters, watch Paterson. The film lacks a conventional plot structure, but it makes up for it with interesting character situations and a great performance from Adam Driver.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5