By: Hawk Ripjaw (A Toast) –
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. Every day, he wakes up at exactly the same time, kisses his wife Laura (Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani), and goes to his job. He listens to his coworker Donny (Rizwan Manji) list off his current personal problems, then listens to his passengers as they converse with each other. At the end of the day, he eats dinner with his wife, takes their adorably curmudgeonly bulldog Marvin (Nellie, posthumous winner of the Cannes Palm Dog award and strong contender for 2016’s best villain) for a walk, and stops at the bar for exactly one beer and a conversation with barkeep Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley). During his lunch breaks staring at a nearby waterfall, Paterson jots down poetry, of the abstract non-rhyming type, into his notebook. Laura wants him to publish his poetry; he’s content with just writing it.
Adam Driver’s performance as Paterson is terrific: the man can emote incredibly well through a simple look, and radiates a subdued intensity that suggests passion rather than conflict. Driver himself was a Marine, and there are a couple of shots of his Marine portrait on his bedside table that fill in some blanks and enrich how Paterson is painted.
Golshifteh Farahani as Laura is just as good. Her character’s attempt to escape from an apparent vapid lifestyle is undermined by her charming apparent disregard for what she obviously enjoys and is good at: painting every damn thing in the house in an abstract black-and-white color scheme. She also wants to be a country singer, convincing her husband to buy her a guitar online (hilariously decorated in the same scheme as she envisions her living space) so she can learn to play and become famous. Another day, she’s waking up early to bake cupcakes for a market. Her thirst for new ventures is insatiable, and she’s lovable for it.
There is one word to describe Paterson: Pleasant. Never for one moment does Paterson put himself before someone else; whether it be a quick shot of him handing off money to a homeless man, or an extended chat with a young fellow poet that he chose to join simply to provide company as the middle schooler was waiting for her mother, the title character is someone who cares–he pauses briefly when Laura mentions the price of her coveted guitar but lets her do it because he wants to see her happy. Throughout his week, Paterson meets several minor characters by happenstance, and every meeting is filled with life and goodwill.
One of the most wonderful things about Paterson is the way it takes the dull, mundane sameness of everyday life, and weaves cheerfully quiet, simple wrinkles into it. Nearly every scene offers situations that appear to suggest conflict, or at the very least another suggestion of how boring life can be; yet at each one, Paterson reminds us that he is happy. As his wife continues to seek out new interests and passions, Paterson finds joy in everything that’s already in front of him.
Paterson has little in the way of conflict. It’s slowly paced, and not much happens, but it’s all part of the way it gradually trains you to see things as its title character does: finding beauty in the small nuances of everyday life. By the time a late conflict does finally arise, it’s not surprising to see that Paterson can still pull some goodwill out of his heart.
The world is crazy, complicated, and scary. It’s also boring, repetitive, and disappointing. Paterson is about facing it with a smile and open arms. It’s about being kind and respectful to everyone you come across. It’s about appreciating small things that make you smile. And couldn’t we all use more of that right now?
Paterson (2016) Movie Drinking Game
Do a Shot: every time Laura is shown painting something.
Take a Drink: every time Paterson has a pleasant conversation with a stranger.
Do a Shot: whenever Paterson starts narrating poetry.
Take a Drink: every time someone says “Paterson.”
Take a Drink: whenever Marvin is being antagonistic.