Paterson (2016) movie poster

director Jim Jarmusch
viewed: 02/25/2017 at Opera Plaza Cinema, SF, CA

Paterson was an interesting contrast to Addicted to Fresno (2015), the movie the kids and I had watched just the night before. Both movies foreground an American city, placing it in the title of the film and in a sense, making it the subject of their film as well. In Fresno, Fresno was given mere lip service as a location, a stand-in for anywhere that sucks.

Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson is much different. Paterson, NJ is on fine display in Jarmusch’s film, from the beautiful old factory buildings to the lovely waterfall that is the favorite spot of protagonist, Paterson (Adam Driver). The more mundane downtown shows itself, bustling, in various states of repair and disrepair. We see it go by as Paterson the man drives his city bus around. And the nice neighborhood in which he lives with his girlfriend, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and his English bulldog, Marvin.

Paterson is both man and city, a point made into a joke at one point, but key to discerning the film and what it’s after. Because Paterson as well is as much about the people that Jarmusch populates the film and city, a genial working class world significantly diverse, kind, and open-hearted, if occasionally, intentionally off-beat.

Paterson the man is also a poet, with a creative, encouraging woman at home. He scribbles his words into a notebook, repeating them onscreen as he writes and re-writes them. The film, like the poet, observes small things in everyday life, appreciate little moments and interactions. And really, I think that is a large part of the point of the film, which itself is a quiet, gentle observation of people and place.

My kids were a bit nonplussed by the film. I, myself, liked it. Not as much as Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), but pretty well.

I was brought to mind of another film with a New Jersey location that also played out a paean to the city of its heart. That film is Be Kind Rewind (2008) and that city was Passaic, NJ, and though it made a lot of the town, it didn’t enter it into its title, nor is it for which the film is most known.