I went to see Paterson primarily because I’m homesick and I get a special type of enjoyment out of seeing NJ’s hills, changing leaves, and, sometimes crumbling, brick architecture in it’s larger, more Northern cities. Guffaw all you want at the statement, but New Jersey is beautiful. Plus, my father’s family is from Paterson, as is Allen Ginsberg, and I always liked that connection.
Paterson is a Jim Jarsmusch film about a poetry-writing bus driver, named Paterson, who lives in Paterson, NJ with his partner, Laura. William Carlos Williams, another famous New Jersey writer, is his hero and he spends each night at the bar observing the local characters in his life. Like many poets, Paterson is afraid to share his poetry with the world and, instead, writes in a secret notebook that his wife is perpetually begging him to copy so that his poems are never lost.
I loved the format of the movie. Each day begins with Paterson waking up, going through his morning routine, and writing some poems on the bus before he starts work. It ends, every day, with him walking the dog and having a drink at the bar. It made me laugh because I identified strongly with the main character and his ridiculously consistent internal clock, his love of routine in the morning, and his poetic fear about sharing his work.
A friend once told me that the final line of a poem is what makes the poem. Until you have that final blow that makes the meaning pop, it’s mostly just words on a page. In a similar way, Paterson is like a poem. It moves slowly in the beginning. Yet, after a monumental loss, the film ends with Paterson moving through his grief only to get back to work, one day after the other, bringing home the point of the movie.
My only complaint: I hated Laura’s character. She played an important role in encouraging her husband to keep writing, to share his work, and to explore his creativity. Despite the depth of her own artistic vision, she struck me as shallow and kind of clueless. She somewhat frivolously explored various hobbies while Paterson worked every day, they rarely seemed to talk as partners or truly share their feelings with one another, and she didn’t seem to understand that her half-baked ventures were making it hard for them to get by financially. She had the potential to be a truly interesting character, but the development fell short.
Overall, I loved that someone made a movie about Paterson’s oddly poetic history. Anyone who’s ever met me knows how much I love trivia about New Jersey history and I cannot, cannot, let a moment pass when I see an actor/artist/singer from New Jersey without announcing, “They’re from New Jersey!” (They even played the Fugees in the crossfit gym here yesterday and, mid-sit up, the words just came from my lips, involuntarily.) And even if poetry isn’t your thing, the overall message of getting back up again after you’ve been knocked down is a worthwhile one all its own.