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Review: Bus driver tale ‘Paterson’ goes nowhere, slowly

Indie veteran Jim Jarmusch makes a misstep with this paean to the slow pace of everyday life

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

In “Paterson,” Adam Driver is Paterson, a bus driver in Paterson, N.J. He lives a plain, domesticated life with wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and is a creature of strict habit, opening his eyes at the same time every morning, going to the same bar every night and writing poetry about the ordinary, everyday things around him.

It’s not exactly riveting material, and even Jim Jarmusch — the veteran writer-director who traffics in the day-to-day contemplation of human existence — struggles to make “Paterson” pop. It’s not that he doesn’t bring a calming solemnity to the anachronistic beats of Paterson’s life — he doesn’t own a smartphone, because of course he doesn’t own a smartphone — it’s that beyond its own low-key celebration of the quiet and mundane, “Paterson” has nothing pushing it forward.

Driver is a fine fit for the role in a way that, say, Chris Pine wouldn’t be; there’s something fascinatingly normal about Driver’s face, and he’s very believable as a bus driver who is quietly a poet. But the blankness of his performance is a hindrance, not a help, to the film: nothing wakes him up out of his loping, dreamlike state, just as nothing wakes “Paterson” up from its loping, dreamlike state.

There are clues Jarmusch is up to more than meets the eye — Paterson continuously runs into sets of twins and sees things in twos, and Laura designs everything from cupcakes to drapes in the same black and white patterns — but its mysteries remain locked inside his mind. “Paterson” longs for a world where these points can be silently pondered, but fails to make an argument why it’s worth the time.

(313) 222-2284




Rated R for some language

Running time: 118 minutes