PATERSON [2016]

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Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Written by Jim Jarmusch

Starring:


Pretentious. Condescending. Slow. Boring. Uneventful. Pointless.

I’m sure all of these colourful words are being used to describe this film my many people, and while some of them may be true, does it mean that the film is terrible?

The adjectives I would prefer are meditative and observational. But slow? Uneventful? Well… Yeah I can’t disagree there. This film makes the pace of a slug seem Olympic-worthy. I certainly wouldn’t be using the word great either, or any of its cousins, much like every critic whose top-five list I have seen.

I suppose I can see why Paterson is the critic’s darling this year, as it certainly appeals to the sort of movie-lover who loves to analyse the meaning of films, what it is saying, and never-mind the entertainment value. But the  ability of critics to overlook major flaws in these types of films will never cease to astound me.

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Anyway…

The film follows a man who is a bus driver but also a poet in his spare time. That is what we have to work with here. There is more to be found than you would expect, but the premise is still very thin.

As we follow Paterson for a week, we see a subtle but accurate hint towards the culture we live in, as Paterson doesn’t own a phone, let-alone a computer. He writes his poetry into a notebook. It almost seems as if he were born in the wrong era, as again we live in a society where talents like his: creativity, literature – they aren’t accepted as a form of work; many people don’t recognise it as any kind of attribute as it isn’t worth money.

We can see this as Paterson and his wife aren’t living rich. This issue is never specifically addressed, but it lingers in the background whenever Paterson is home. Despite his wife being creative as well, neither of their outlets help them financially, hence Paterson resorting to bus driving to pay the bills.

This film also says something about relationships, and the various lows that they can bring to the fore. Paterson himself seems content with his situation, but when he leaves home it is hard not to see him as a lonely man, driving the same route each day, visiting the same bar each night, with a limited circle of friends who all seem to have things happening in life.

Unlike Paterson, who if asked wouldn’t have much to say about how he is going, as there really isn’t much going on at all in his life. It is almost sad to watch him interact with these other people who seem to have so much life in them, while he usually sits in silence at the bar, drinking his single beer for the night.

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Outside his house or the bar however, Paterson seems to light up when he meets someone new.

He doesn’t fight with his wife, but one can’t help wonder if his feeling of isolation is due to his personality alone, or the fact that he is with someone who doesn’t work; someone who mirrors his passion for creativity rather than contrasting it, which would surely make for a better financial situation, and perhaps a relationship that is less… Bland.

But as well as this film paints a picture of a typical working class male, it is far from perfect. As mentioned, no one can deny that this film is extremely slow, and the almost complete lack of significant events make it a challenge to stay interested. I saw clock-watching all around me. Nothing of consequence really happens, and if it does, there is no immediate reaction to it, from the main character or anything/anyone else in the film.

The most significant events are when Paterson meets new people on his travels to and from work, and these scenes (including a fantastic back and forth with Method Man, who certainly delivers his own style of poetry) are easily the best parts of the movie, regarding dialogue rather than entertainment. This film doesn’t do entertainment.

And that is where the biggest problem lies. The understated plot and cinematography could have worked if it wasn’t obvious that Jarmusch has decided to balance this incredibly slow pace with humour; entertainment. I chuckled a bit for the first act, but the jokes are recurring and get old; there is no variety in the style of humour. It relies on a few gags that get replayed many times with diminishing results.

And not only does this get old quickly, it makes these scenes later in the film seem inane and out-of-touch with the rest of the movie. As for their dog’s random reactions to their conversations and decision-making, that was something that went right over my head. How that was funny I will never know.

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Paterson is the definition of an indie art-house movie. Jarmusch is content to let the sound of silence linger, to let the simple life of Paterson hang in the air, while four beer(1)also subtly commenting on the society we live in. A true cure to current Hollywood blockbusters. While it certainly succeeds in being everything that a Hollywood film isn’t, it also somewhat succeeds in portraying the life of a simple man; a married man whose mental state we as viewers must try to work out. The exceedingly slow pace and repetitive jokes though give Paterson an uneven quality, and when it is slow, it is slooow. This critic’s darling is overrated, despite a very, very strong lead in Adam Driver.

Two short of a sixer

4/6

30 Comments on “PATERSON [2016]

  1. Nice review Jordan. This is still one of the 2016 releases I’ve been meaning to catch up on, and I think Driver is becoming one of today’s best actors. Plus in the age of Trump, I feel that films focusing on the white working class are going to be more common if we want to survive the next four years…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Only Lovers Left Alive was my intro to Jim Jarmusch and I have to say I loved that film, but it was also one that wasn’t really well-received. I’m wondering how I might go with Paterson. I tend to get drawn to these smaller, subtler character studies and I think Adam Driver is on a real hot streak. Look — it’s Kylo Ren driving a bus! How quaint!

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha! That gave me a good laugh ;D

      I haven’t seen much of Jarmusch’s stuff at all, only Coffee and Cigarettes and that was only cos’ my old gf was big into art-films a LONG time before I was.

      I did like this, but there just needed to be a bit more for me. I mean, I’m happy to watch a 3+ hour slow Tarkovsky movie, it wasn’t the pace of it that I didn’t like, it just felt a bit empty. I know its a character study over everything else, but I do like to enjoy the films I watch, rather than just watching something that seems to have been made purely just so it can be written about. That’s just how I see it though, is it playing in your neck of the woods?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah that’s definitely an issue I have sometimes with these kinds of movies. Sometimes they are so small and understated they threaten irrelevance. Give me something interesting to watch and I’ll enjoy it but if nothing’s that interesting the thing can be a chore to get through. I don’t see this playing anywhere near me yet but I’m hoping it’ll get here soon.

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  3. Great review! I’m a big fan of Adam Driver so I hope I get the chance to see this soon. It’s nowhere near me in theaters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Brittani 🙂

      That sucks it isn’t playing near you. It isn’t exactly a film that calls for a big screen though, it’d probably be more enjoyable at home. Its a thinking movie, so there were a couple of times where I kinda wished I could press pause

      Like

  4. Great post 🙂 It has been a long time since I blogged here 🙂 Jim Jarmusch’s films are known to move slow so I guess one can say he his films are the cinematic equivalent of an endurance test in that way. Personally, I would say he has done some good If not great stuff. Just my opinion though. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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  5. Aw man this is such a great film. I doubt anyone but Jarmusch could have made a film where so little happens yet you are content and happy with just letting it pass by. I know the pacing was an issue for some people including yourself, but I wasn’t even bothered by that and could actually have seen it go on for another three or four hours. Great review aswell man. Are you familiar with more of Jarmusch’s work?

    Like

    • A rent is the best way to go I think Ruth.

      Its nothing that will amaze on the big screen, in fact its possibly the most minimalist film I have ever seen.

      I honestly can’t think of a movie off the top of my head where -less- happens. Something that is even slower than this. Apart from a few obscure foreign examples, I’ve got nothing. You certainly need some patience to watch this.

      There is no doubt though that Adam Driver is freaking near-perfect

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  6. Pingback: The sun is indeed shining… Sunshine Blogger Award – FlixChatter Film Blog

  7. Great review Jordan. I found this one hard going because of its minimalist pace, deadpan humour, prolonged silences, understated acting and noticeably sparse music to lift the emotional tone. Typically Jarmusch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, the humour was the biggest turn off for me mate. It gave me a few chuckles near the start, but it was almost literally the same jokes over and over. His girl likes to decorate stuff, WE GET IT!!

      Its funny you mention the slow pace, I spoke to some people while leaving the cinema and they said they’d never seen a movie that was so slow. One of them accidentally slept through the whole thing! But for me, slow is fine. I love me some Tarkovsky. But when NOTHING of consequence happens in the film? Then I’m gonna be a bit more critical.

      As for Jarmusch, I’ve only seen Coffee and Cigarettes, and that combined with this makes me pretty confident that I won’t like his other stuff. That being said though, I missed a one night screening last year of his doco on Iggy Pop – ‘Gimme Danger’. Surely that will be good, Iggy is the man. But hey, perhaps Jarmusch will be able to make it as slow as possible! ;P

      Liked by 1 person

      • haha! yep, indeed.

        At least in something like Solaris, that wait is totally worth it. And some of those long takes are freaking memorising… you could frame them and put em on your wall.

        This though is minimalist in EVERY sense – not much music, and nothing visual to fill that void, unlike again in Solaris where I think there is a five minute scene of a man driving in silence. But it looks so cool that the pace doesn’t matter.

        Heh, glad I’ve found someone who agrees with me on this flick! Every critic seems to have this in their top five.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cinemuse, You hit the nail on the head here ‘ minimalist pace, deadpan humour, prolonged silences, understated acting and noticeably sparse music’ – that’s Jarmusch in about ten words, and it’s what I love about most of his films.

      Liked by 2 people

      • See… that humour for me wore thin fast. If I want deadpan, dry type humour I’ll take Wes Anderson or the Coens any day of the week. I stopped laughing after the first 30 minutes because they were the same jokes!

        Like

  8. Could not help but read that above reply 🙂 Which Solaris are you talking about: the 1972 Russian film or the 2002 American remake. I love the 72 version, the 2002 version not so much. Regards 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved this film, and glad you reviewed it. For me, Paterson is one of Jim Jarmusch’s best films, returning to his 80s roots with a film of romance and realism. The film is a meditation on the beauty of living and being alive. Jarmusch both exposes and loves the unplanned ugliness of modern American towns and cities.

    If you want to see the best of Jarmusch, I recommend you see Down By Law, which is slowish but much more comic. His other good ones (i.e. ones I like best) are Dead Man (a Western with Johnny Depp) and Stranger Than Paradise (which is much slower than this, but great if you can get on the wavelength). The slowest of all, and only one I got nothing out of, was his first, Permanent Vacation, which even I found dull.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment mate, sorry for the delay! I have not been well.

      Yes I think I need to re-watch this one. I only saw it once, on a small crappy screen too. I liked Dead Man and I also liked Cigs and Coffee so I know I like his style.

      Time to re-evaluate I think! Thanks mate, now I know what I’m watching tonight 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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