HCAF Review: ‘PATERSON’ – a hilarious look at a working class artist
James Cole Clay// Film Critic
The day in, day out of life can be mundane: The same breakfast, the exact same route to work, even the simple pleasures in life have a diminishing return at some point.
Independent cinema icon Jim Jarmusch (ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE) is a physical embodiment of the dawn of hipsterism. However, his latest film, PATERSON, is void of any pretension, with a sincerity that celebrates the working class artist.
Taking place during an average week in the life of a bus driver/low-key poet, Paterson (Adam Driver) drives the streets of Paterson, NJ — an industrial town that is home to countless artists from punk rocker Iggy Pop to comedian Lou Costello. It’s certainly not a glamorous job, but Paterson is an observer of his surroundings, quietly taking note in the beauty that comes with the simple life.
Jarmusch celebrates the ordinary, because let’s face it, most artists are struggling working class members of society who have to “fit” their passions into everyday life. And while a lesser film would highlight these difficulties, PATERSON is nearly void of any conflict, taking a mild-mannered approach to quietly loving the written word without vanity.
Driver – who has made a name for himself in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS and GIRLS – still is a purveyor of the independent scene with a fidelity to his work that allows him to assume the role of anything from a Sith Lord to a local transit worker.
PATERSON is essentially a two-hander — three hands if you count the indelible performance from late English bulldog Nellie, who plays Marvin — between Driver and his infectious significant other Laura (Golshifteh Farahani in an invigorating performance), who stays home to master her creative pursuits that include becoming a country-western star. But Jarmusch never bats an eye at the lofty goals of Laura and or places judgment on the characters as the scenes deepen their meaning.
Finding humor in films has become increasingly difficult in the R-rated comedy landscape, but if you’ve seen any other of Jarmusch’s films (funniest ones including DOWN BY LAW and COFFEE AND CIGARETTES), his unique voice is easy to pinpoint. Jarmusch manages a tone that screams drama and torture, and he dials back the mania for one of the absolutely funniest films of the year.
Many threads are introduced, including a group of guys warning Paterson about dog nappers while on a walk with Marvin, but these plots may or may not only be a tease for the viewer to chew upon. But that’s how life is: People come and go, thoughts and ideas occur, some may come to pass and some are gone with the sunset. Similar to Paterson’s world, Jarmusch invites the viewer to a lasting sense of dread, but finds humor in unprecedented ways.
PATERSON isn’t going to light up the box office report, but it will certainly find an audience with the increasingly impressive Amazon Studios handling the distribution. Driver, Farhani and Jarmusch give a peek into the tragically hip life of a poet who’s so unassuming he may be one of the most likable artists to be portrayed in modern cinema.
PATERSON held its regional premiere at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. It opens in NY and LA on Dec. 26, and will expand regionally on Jan. 6-20.