Paterson: the main character's name and the town where this film is set. What Paterson may lack in box office popularity, it has made up for in the film critics' realm, where it has commanded attention. In fact, “Film of the Year” has been thrown around with abandon in reference to director Jim Jarmusch’s latest feature.
Adam Driver, of Kylo Ren fame, plays an unassuming city bus driver, using poetry as a means to contemplate life as he drives, lives, and writes in Paterson, NJ. Paterson comes home each night to his girlfriend Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani, and her latest art and "high fashion" hi-jinx. This loop plays out over the week of Paterson's unassuming life that the movie encompasses, each day featuring a mildly entertaining twist. Laura's character is really the best analogy for the way this film makes you feel: odd and asking why over and over again.
An important caveat here that odd can sometimes be a really great thing for a movie to strive for. One of my favorite films of all time, My Dinner With Andre, exemplifies this; here, we find our two main characters doing nothing but sharing dinner and conversation. Even so, it finds a way to be thrilling and leaves you wanting to spend more time at the table. Paterson is, of course, not all bad - I did actually find the performances that Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani put into this film charmingly wonderful. There is certainly something to be said about films that are daring enough to show us the peculiar beauty of everyday life. The privilege to live, if only for a few hours, with two other humans and to see what their life holds is special. Special, however, is not portrayed here in anything other than the acting. I left the theater asking myself, “Where the last two hours a waste?” and “What was the point of that?”.
Actor's portrayals aside, my biggest issue with Paterson are the characters - I simply don’t care about them, at all. Even worse, I cannot stand Laura. I found myself asking why she doesn't have a job, and actually being personally offended at one point for something she asks of Paterson credit for Farahani for evoking that response. Speaking of Paterson, he seems unhappy in this relationship, and the forced nature of his commitment is projected onto the audience. We’re forced to watch him take her dog, who hates him, for a walk over and over. This turns into the dog being forced to sit on the cold concrete while Paterson sits in what must be the world's worst bar - these people and their lives are just not fun to be around. At many points during the film, I wanted to reach through the screen, and shake Paterson, and tell him that there is more fulfilling life to be had! Of course, all of this mundane life is explored through the scope of his poetry - and boy are we in for a treat here. Maybe I just don't understand what good poetry is, but I really feel like anything that is written here is not an example of it. Not only that, but we are then forced to endure watching Paterson go through the writing process of said bad poetry. We see the inspiration, hear the drafts, consider the revisions, all the same strange, bad lines over and over again. To be honest, I most related with the dog, left out in the cold and wanting to cover my head so I could wish myself to a happier place.
Audiences are left scratching their heads about many unanswered plot points - heads up, spoilers abound - the concept of Paterson and Laura having twins, and the symbolism of twins left undeciphered are examples of this. Twins are present in both the world's worst bar and on the bus Paterson drives, with no resolution. A very dramatic moment in the bar between a pair of quarreling lovers occurs, but don't expect to learn anything real about these characters or why they are acting the way they are - again, you'll be left asking why.
I don't think I've felt this way coming out of a film since the blockbuster-sized flop Independence Day: Resurgence. At least with that movie, you got to see some aliens blow up and some cool visual effects that some stupid movie executive probably lost millions on. I want to support indie film like this because it is daring and is trying do to something different, but this is not the answer. I cannot recommend Paterson to audiences in good conscience: it is boring, lacks any character development, and is at times painful to watch. Spend your time on My Dinner with Andre and thank me later.