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Paterson

Year: 2016
Studio: Amazon Studios
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani

After the juggernauts of Twilight and Harry Potter, Kristen Stewart and Daniel Radcliffe (maybe their agents) were careful to strike out in small indie movies like Camp X-Ray, The Clouds of Sils Maria, Swiss Army Man and Kill Your Darlings that gave them loads of credibility as actors despite nobody outside the industry seeing them.

Of course, big movie stars sometimes just want a break from green screens and tennis balls on sticks and want to really emote. After Adam Driver's experience on TV's Girls, he's probably more comfortable in that mode while Star Wars: The Force Awakens might have been more about cementing his commercial viability and paying off a New York condo.

His enormous frame, gawky face and sincere manner is far more suited to Paterson, the story of a bus driver and amateur poet who shares the name of the film with that of his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey.

The story depicts a week in the life of his job, relationship with his loving but slightly ditzy wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and anything else that comes into his life by chance or design.

Most of it's anchored by repetition; he checks his watch when the alarm goes off, walks the same way to the bus depot, listens to the same colleague complain about his life at the change of the shift, overhears the same kind of conversations during the day and then walks his dog at night, going to the same bar for a drink where he knows most of the other patrons.

It's the kind of movie mainstream audiences will hate, and if you like your films to have something to say rather than just exist you might not get too much out of it either. It's a lot like Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love where a lot of stuff happens but none of it really amounts to anything much.

A car full of wannabe gangsters confront Paterson while walking the dog and compliment him on it but warn him that if he isn't careful it will get stolen, so you wonder if he's going to find the dog missing or dead. When he keeps a young girl company outside the bus depot one afternoon while she waits for her mother you wonder if she's going to become his friend or muse.

One day the bus breaks down and he has to borrow one of the passengers' phones to report it in (he doesn't have one, one of the sparse few character tics). Another day he and his wife go to the movies and they come home to find the dog's torn his notebook full of poems to shreds (he barely even raises his voice). On another, she cooks him an ill-advised dinner combining two foods he likes which he respectfully endures.

The final scene sees him having a deep and meaningful conversation with a visiting Japanese man in a park who's just as much a fan of a famous local poet as Paterson is, and you wonder if it's going to introduce some arc or new direction in his life, but no.

Maybe it's all saying that even amid routine the smallest happenstance can become a gift...or maybe it means nothing. It's well shot, very competently staged and pretty well acted (Paterson is so mild and reactive Driver doesn't really have to do very much), but if you're a fan of stories that say something, steer clear.

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