January 11, 2017

Paterson: Bus Driver Writes Poetry in Introspective Character Portrait

Paterson (Adam Driver), who happens to live in Paterson, New Jersey, is stuck in a rut. By day, the municipal bus driver drives his bus on a boring route in Paterson. After work, he hangs out at a dingy, neighborhood bar where he limits himself to one beer. Then, he heads home to be with his loving wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), and his bulldog, Marvin.

Writing is his only escape from the mind-numbing monotony. Whenever he has some free time, he scribbles poetry into a secret notebook that he always carries with him. Laura wants him to make a copy of the journal in case it gets lost or is accidentally destroyed.

By comparison, Laura is ambitious. Despite her foreign accent and a lack of musical training, she dreams of becoming a country western singer. So, she wants to purchase a guitar and take lessons that they can’t really afford. Fortunately for her, her husband is too blasé to object to her plans.

Resigned to his lot in life, the unassuming blue-collar hero takes everything in stride, whether dealing with passengers, unwinding with his wife, or schmoozing with the colorful regulars at the local saloon. Thus unfolds Paterson, the latest film from the legendary Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise).

The movie relies upon the dialogue of the script that has become a Jarmusch trademark. The movie is more concerned with character development than with cinematic effects. In the film, Adam Driver successfully tones down his usual over-the-top act in order to play the title role of an undistinguished Average Joe.

The picture’s charm rests in the gifted director’s ability to elevate a humble “Everyman” into a personality worthy of a movie audience’s attention.

Very Good (***). Rated R for profanity. Running time: 118 minutes. Studio: Amazon. Distributor: Bleecker Street Media.