Paterson Review: The Comfort of Routine

Photo Credit:Jim Jarmusch tries to find beauty in the mundane with Paterson. The film is deliberately slow, like a feature length montage of characters stuck in their routine lives before something amazing happens. Nothing amazing happens in Paterson, and that's its point. We follow the titular Paterson (Adam Driver, showing complex range) of Paterson, New Jersey, one of the film's not always successful attempts at cutesy, tongue-in-cheek humor, through a week of his positively boring life as a bus driver in the suburbs. Jarmusch's small observations in building his chief character are spot on. He has a seemingly magic ability to get up exactly when he needs to every day, something he and his wife (blah, also excellent) repeatedly acknowledge as if it's fresh all over again. He goes to the same bar every night and talks to the same people about a whole lot of nothing. But he does write poetry. Through calming voiceovers of Paterson's works from Driver, the film adopts a soothing tone to build its routine into pleasantry. The days are the same but the poems are always new, but very much of the same poet. We, like Paterson, take joy in his escapes from the mundane. Otherwise, the character's very existence would be utterly unfulfilling. But at two hours, Jarmusch has sat us down for a slow crawl to the finish line. Paterson is never exciting, and that's fine, but it's not always interesting either. It doesn't help that the characters don't really change over our time with them. Driver and blah both give exceptional, strong performances, but they're never pushed to take them someplace new. The result is a successful portrait of our sometimes mundane existence. It doesn't quite find the beauty in that existence, even if it finds the comfort. But without any substantial evolution, Paterson just feels dryer than it clearly intended to be. Grade: B- By Matt Dougherty

Jim Jarmusch tries to find beauty in the mundane with Paterson. The film is deliberately slow, like a feature length montage of characters stuck in their routine lives before something amazing happens. Nothing amazing happens in Paterson, and that’s its point.

We follow the titular Paterson (Adam Driver, showing complex range) of Paterson, New Jersey, one of the film’s not always successful attempts at cutesy, tongue-in-cheek humor, through a week of his positively boring life as a bus driver in the suburbs. Jarmusch’s small observations in building his chief character are spot on. He has a seemingly magic ability to get up exactly when he needs to every day, something he and his wife (Golshifteh Farahani, also excellent) repeatedly acknowledge as if it’s fresh all over again. He goes to the same bar every night and talks to the same people about a whole lot of nothing. But he does write poetry.

Through calming voiceovers of Paterson’s works from Driver, the film adopts a soothing tone to develop its routine into pleasantry. The days are the same but the poems are always new, but very much of the same poet. We, like Paterson, take joy in his escapes from the mundane. Otherwise, the character’s very existence would be utterly unfulfilling.

But at two hours, Jarmusch has sat us down for a slow crawl to the finish line. Paterson is never exciting, and that’s fine, but it’s not always interesting either. It doesn’t help that the characters don’t really change over our time with them. Driver and Farahani both give exceptional, strong performances, but they’re never pushed to take them someplace new. The result is a successful portrait of our sometimes mundane existence. It doesn’t quite find the beauty in that existence, even if it finds the comfort. But without any substantial evolution, Paterson just feels dryer than it clearly intended to be. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

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