Rough week for the ol’ “movie watcher,” eh? Just two movies this week. One tremendous. One not. —Will Schube
I. Paterson (2016) – Directed by Jim Jarmusch
I have an at-times overly enthusiastic relationship with Jim Jarmusch’s films. Dead Man (1995) is an all-time favorite and I adore both Mystery Train (1989) and Night on Earth (1991). Despite my deep love for these films, I have trouble sitting through Strangers in Paradise (1984), I skip through certain vignettes from Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), I find Broken Flowers (2005) precious, and Ghost Dog (1999) overrated. I’ve yet to see Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), but after watching Paterson, all of my established opinions have been swiftly thrown out the window in favor of reconsideration.
Paterson’s logline, upon first look, doesn’t do the film any favors. A bus driver named Paterson (Adam Driver) lives in Paterson, New Jersey and writes poetry in between his driving routes and after his workday is finished. Oddly enough, though, that’s pretty much all Paterson does throughout the course of the film. Logline come correct. He wakes up without an alarm, walks to work, writes before his shift begins, eavesdrops on conversations, stops by the waterfall after work, returns home to his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), walks a dog he hates to the bar where he has precisely one beer, returns home, and goes to sleep. The film depicts variations of this routine seven days in a row. It sounds like an Antonioni movie on Xanax. Yet, despite its unassuming nature, the film is profoundly moving. It uses the spaces in between Paterson’s day—and the mundanity of it—to examine the drive behind art, life, and work.
Paterson essentially revolves around a climax so obviously hinted at from the film’s beginning that anyone left surprised was likely on their phone while watching. The function of the film essentially becomes an immersion process into the incessant need to create, and what creation means to both creator and a perceived audience. You know pieces of art that are blatantly obvious in their meta-nature? Films about films, paintings about paintings, music about music; works that are too clever by half? Paterson is the opposite. Sure, it’s about the creative process, but it never shrouds itself in a different cloth. It’s unequivocally about an artist, but about an artist who never considers himself to be one. It’d be naïve if it wasn’t so stunningly human. Adam Driver gives an extraordinary performance as Paterson, creating art in the way many of us wish we could but all too often find excuses not to. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time I get back to my eleven half-finished screenplays.
II. The Switch (2010) – Directed by Josh Gordon & Will Speck
I have been watching a lot of Arrested Development lately and recently had a strong urge to watch a bad Jason Bateman movie. I almost chose Extract (2009), but wanted to continue pretending that Mike Judge can do no wrong. I eventually settled upon The Switch (2010). This film is so remarkably unworthy of words. It’s not a horrible movie, it’s just nothing. It’s aspirations are zero. It treads no new ground, asks for nothing of its audience, and gives nothing in return.
Jason Bateman is in love with Jennifer Aniston but won’t tell her so he messes with some sperm she’s going to use for artificial insemination. It’s a gross move. They part for seven years before reuniting. Once together again as best friends, Bateman tells her the news. She gets very angry but then kisses him and marries him anyways. I would not do the same.
His name is Wally in it. C’mon. Gotta do better than that. Stick to Arrested Development. Even The Change-Up (2011) (in which Bateman switches bodies with Ryan Reynolds is better) is better. In the words of Gob, cocka-caw!
Update: I’ve found out that this film is based on a Jeffrey Eugenides story, Baster. That somehow makes this thing all the more putrid.