Paterson (2016)

A Movie Review

 

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One of the better movies to emerge out of  the 2016 crop of movies is the small slice of life film, Paterson, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. Had I had a chance to see it earlier it would have appeared on my Top 10 List for best films of 2016. I happily add it now.

Paterson is a movie about the daily life of a bus driver named Paterson driving a bus in a town named Paterson, played by an actor named Driver. Oh, the irony abounds.

This is a small, quiet, little movie about the daily routine of the main character, Paterson as he goes through this daily rituals of getting up the same time every day, eating a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast and then walking to work. He is a city bus driver for New Jersey Transit. He stops for lunch everyday at the Great Falls located on the Passaic River in Paterson. Paterson eats from a lunch box prepared lovingly by his eccentric wife, Laura, and writes his poetry in a secret notebook that he has been composing in his head as he makes his rounds in the bus. The words flow like the waters from the falls. Paterson writes about the small, little, mundane things in life, but as the imagery picks up speed it sometimes explodes into a passionate torrent of love for Laura, his wife and muse.

Paterson comes home everyday after work and is greeted by his wife, a stay at home creative type who is into making strong and bold visual statements of black and white patterns, swirls, and circles as she designs and paints curtains and clothing and paints every available surface in their modest home with her bold designs. It is obvious that they love each other and accept each other for who they are. Laura encourages Paterson in his poetry and begs him to make copies so he can share them with the world.

After dinner Paterson walks Laura’s dog, Marvin, an English Bull Dog with a lot of personality. But Paterson and Marvin are not exactly best friends. Paterson stops each night on his walk at a neighborhood bar called, The Bar. He ties Marvin out front and goes in for exactly one beer. Here we meet more interesting characters from the city and learn more about Paterson. Posted on the wall behind the bar are pictures of famous people who are from Paterson or who are associated with Paterson in some way.

On the bus we and Paterson overhear snatches of conversations as the passengers talk about everything from historical events to famous people who hail from Paterson. There is an animated discussion about the boxer Hurricane Carter who was arrested for a triple homicide that took place in a bar in Paterson. Turns out the Hurricane was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was wrongfully convicted of the crime. Bod Dylan wrote a song about it and Denzel Washington played him in the movie.

This is a deceptively simple movie that actually has lots going on. Paying close attention to the background details will pay off in dividends. On Paterson’s night stand is an copy of Moby Dick with the name Melville splayed across the cover. In the basement we see the Earlier Collected Works of William Carlos Williams and many other books by other poets and writers.

Paterson, played to perfection by Adam Driver, is a basement poet who loves literature and observing the small details of everyday life and interacting with the interesting characters that inhabit Paterson, New Jersey. His favorite poet is William Carlos Williams, also from Paterson.

In the end, this movie is really a poem. A poem about the city of Paterson and the people who inhabit it as seen through the eyes of a bus drier. Brilliant!

 

 

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