I’m presuming there are hundreds of thousands of youngish or middle-aged people out there who are more or less content to live modest lives of regularity and security in minor, out-of-the-way burghs. There are, of course, many more who dream of The Life Kardashian — fame, stardom, super-wealth. So in this era of grotesque values you have to chuckle if not guffaw about Jim Jarmusch having made a film that basically says (a) “fuck all that,” (b) “turn it down and plant spiritual growth seeds” and (c) “dare to be dull in the ironic sense of that term.”
Paterson is about a lanky young bus driver (Adam Driver) and his Iranian wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) who live with a subversive prick dog named Marvin in a small dumpy house in Paterson, New Jersey and generally follow routines of almost astounding modesty — not hanging with friends, not partying, not doing Manhattan clubs on weekends…none of that.
Well, maybe Laura would like a little fun and frolic but Driver’s guy, who of course is also named Paterson, doesn’t even own a smart phone. All he wants is to write poetry in a little composing book. During work breaks, evenings in the cellar. Not to become “famous” but to one day write one-half or even one-third as well as famed Paterson poet William Carlos Williams. The quiet writing life and a general reverence for poetry becomes more and more of a thing as the film develops. Paterson itself is trying to be a kind of small, minimalist poem.
Did I like it? As far as it went, yes. I respected what it was up to. The commitment, the quietude. Jarmusch certainly knows the realm and how to tailor his film so it feels like it came from notebook jottings and not from a novel or short story or even a screenplay.
Paterson is completely happy with Laura and she with him, but it should be noted that he’s obliged to pay a price for his good marriage, and that is by pretending that her sense of design (black and white spots and patterns in clothes, drapes, upholstery and cupcakes) is good. In fact Laura’s work is the stuff of nightmares. Okay, except for the black-and-white cupcakes — they’re fine. But the drapes! The tablecloths! If you’ve been married you know this is what you sometimes have to do — you have to be able say with a straight face that mediocre or terrible creations are not terrible, and are in fact indications of a profound creative ability. If you don’t say that kind of thing from time to time eventually your marriage will suffer.
Marvin the bulldog is really awful. As I tweeted last night, “If Todd Solondz had been around he would’ve been flattened by a truck.”