**1/2 stars (out of four)
Writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s movies are often plotless and have a very low-key, dry sense of humor. Often, there’s little more than talk. But many film buffs appreciate his sensibility and he’s developed a large cult following. Full disclosure: I’ve never been much of a Jarmusch fan, so if you are one of his devotees, take my thoughts about his new film Paterson with the requisite grains of salt.
Adam Driver plays a bus driver named Paterson living in the city of Paterson, NJ. He’s happily married and is secretly a poet (he lets his wife read them and no one else). He keeps all of his poems in a notebook, shunning computers and smart phones.
There’s not much else to the story than that. The one plot development that occurs late in the film can be seen coming a mile away. Movies that consist solely of conversations can be interesting, but the conversations have to be interesting (see the Before Sunrise trilogy). Here, some exchanges are amusing, such as a running gag where a co-worker keeps regaling Driver of all his problems. But many elicit nothing more than a shrug. Lastly, a movie this slight should not run 118 minutes.
But the film’s great strength is Driver, an actor to keep an eye on. He was completely convincing as the villainous Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and is equally good here as a kindly bus driver. He imbues the role with a warmth and sincerity that Jarmusch’s deadpan characters often lack.