2021 Movie Draft- Round 1- Pick 2- Music City Mike selects- Paterson. Drama
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Only filmmaker Jim Jarmusch could write and direct a movie about a bus driving poet and make it fascinating. Such was the subject of his 2016 movie, Paterson. While not a whole hell of a lot happens in its 118 minutes, the film is an insightful look into the satisfyingly simple life of its main character played by Adam Driver.
As odd as the actor’s last name being the same as his role’s occupation, the film’s title has three distinct references. It’s the name of the film’s focus, a poetry-writing local bus driver who also lives and drives in the New Jersey town of the same name. There is also a book-length poem by New Jersey’s William Carlos Williams entitled Paterson that works its way into the story line.
Without much dialog, most of what we learn about Paterson is through observing his daily routine of waking, working and walking the dog. He peacefully follows a regular daily discipline that begins with rising before the alarm clock rings and ends with drinking a single beer at the neighborhood bar while walking the dog. (The recurring shot of the dog on a leash waiting outside the bar is priceless.) But in between, the story gets its foundation through the introspective glimpses found in the poetry he scribbles into a notebook when time permits.
In their small home, he is in a loving and caring relationship with the offbeat and creative Laura. We discover her character through her yearning to be discovered for her artistic skills of design. She also has high hopes to become a famous Nashville musician, not until of course she first learns how to play her mail order guitar. The yin and yang in the storyline develop through the contrast of Laura’s dreams with Paterson’s lack of any. He simply has no aspirations regarding the creative product of his beautiful poems. In fact, they never get any further than Laura’s ears.
Without giving the plot away, there are a few incidents that disrupt Paterson’s routine. For the most impactful one, Jarmusch brings the distress to a head in a brilliant ending that is as intellectually encapsulating as it is beautifully cinematic. The scene takes place at the Great Falls of the Passaic River which oddly sit in the middle of the city of Paterson. It’s a tranquil and peaceful setting within an otherwise dismal urban environment where Paterson gets to find rest with his predicament.
Jim Jarmusch is a remarkable filmmaker with one of the most unique movie catalogs in cinematic history. Each is brilliantly offbeat and simple in its own peculiar way. Paterson is no exception and is full of memorable scenes and side characters that Paterson meets in casual encounters. It may not be a film for everyone. Nothing blows up, no one gets killed and there’s no sex. It’s just one of the best character studies I’ve ever enjoyed on the screen.
I have watched this film several times with family and friends who are seeing it for the first time. While no one has come away totally disappointed, on the other hand, I don’t think any of them felt led like I did to make a pilgrimage to Paterson, NJ to see the Falls and some of the other locale used in the film. One of them did however put a box of Ohio Blue Tip Matches (one of Paterson’s poetic muses) in my Christmas stocking.
After seeing Paterson, I have never looked at creativity the same. While I may look at the number of “likes” I get on a blog post, the real satisfaction is taking something out of myself and putting it into words. But I will remember to back up my files.