Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The name, And Views Are My Game.
Paterson is a bus driver who likes to write poetry. He’s got a wife who wants to open a cupcake shop, and a bull dog who can never stop growling. Every morning he wakes up, goes to work, and listens to his passenger’s conversations. And every night, after he eats dinner and talks to his wife, he takes his dog for a walk, and hangs out at his local bar. And the next day, he does the exact same thing, all over again.
Paterson is a hard movie to review, mostly because it’s so unusual. It literally has no plot. There’s no inciting incident, no rising tension, and no climax. There’s not even really any conflict, except for the fact that his wife wants him to publish his poems, and he doesn’t feel confident enough to. But even that is very, very mild, and he agrees to do so very quickly, negating any potential drama that could have stemmed from it. This truly is a film where nothing happens. But then, that’s kind of the point. This really is a character piece. It is just a series of seven scenes, one for each day of the week, showing this man’s daily routine, which, like most real people’s, is pretty mundane and repetitive. And yet, by seeing the same routine play out over and over again, but with the slight variations that come from different days, you really get to know this man and his world. And they both become so fleshed out as a result that you kind of get invested. And the characters he interacts with everyday–his wife, his boss, the bartender–as well as the new people he encounters–a guy rapping while he does his laundry, some dudes in a car who are obsessed with bull dogs–are all so specific, and interesting, that it becomes hard not to watch.
The best way for me to describe Paterson is as a first act that never ends. In most Hollywood movies, you’ve got three acts. In the first act, you set up the world and the characters. Then, after about 20 minutes, something happens that forces your protagonist down a path towards a larger goal, and begins the rest of the story. If Paterson were an action movie, it would spend the first 20 minutes showing a bus driver’s daily routine, so as to get the audience to care about him, and then, someone would place a bomb on his bus, or kidnap his dog, and the rest of the film would be him dealing with what happened. But Paterson is not an action movie. That big moment where we learn what the rest of the film will be about never comes. It is literally just a week in his life, where we see him go through the motions over and over again. Nothing more. Nothing less. And, in a way, that makes the film kind of special, and even somewhat endearing. If you’re tired of the same old three-act Hollywood fare, and are looking for something different, you’ll probably like this. At the same time, though, if you like your films to have structure and conflict, you’ll probably be bored by this, so make of that what you will.