Paterson (Jarmusch. 2016)

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A humble, gentle, quietly brilliant film, Jim Jarmusch’s crowd-pleaser at Cannes is an ambling, whimsical ode to blue collar America, poetry and the unassuming beauty of everyday life. A warming story of a salt of the earth bus driver who is also a poet, it’s a film that requires you to slow down and reflect.

At the centre of the story is bus driver and hobbyist poet, Paterson (Adam Driver). As low-key an artist as they get, Paterson operates the 23 bus in his home town of Paterson, New Jersey. Every day he gets up in the early hours, kisses his partner, munches down a bowl of cheerios, walks to work, does his route, comes back, walks his dog and goes to a local bar before turning in. All the while he views the world like a poem yet to be written.

It’s a film where (heaven forbid) not much really happens. Paterson’s life is not inherently intriguing, nor is his life that of a struggling artist, but the exquisiteness is found in the dissection of his 9-5. As he drives his bus, he eavesdrops on wonderful soundbites of human interaction. Teenagers discuss anarchy and two dishevelled men contemplate why they haven’t had sex with gorgeous women. Paterson observes respectfully and silently. There’s also a charming relationship Paterson shares with his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), an eclectic, creative type with boundless amounts of energy. She bakes cupcakes, paints black and white patterns on everything and comes up with a new life-long ambition each day.

At first glance the tweeness of it all is a bit much. Paterson is good natured, his partner is good natured, even his dog is sort of good natured. However, the film side steps any over-indulgent sentimentality. A lesser film might capitalize on the adorable romance between Paterson and Laura, but Jarmusch has bigger fish to fry. Indeed, everything in this creation is about the nature of creativity in day to day lives that aren’t extraordinary. Laura and Paterson’s juxtaposing creative personalities play in to this theme then. Far from being boring and bijou, their paring is symbolic of something altogether more interesting.

A slow, sometimes even catatonic tale, Paterson is about that most intriguing subject – the artistic soul. But far from far from being absorbed by the gravity the concept might suggest, it unfolds unpretentiously and with tremendous poise.

The Finest Hours ( Craig Gillespie. 2016)

 

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There’s a sense of boxes being ticked off as you watch The Finest Hours. The maritime melodrama is a by the books tale that covers young love, heroes against the odds and small town pride. It’s a churned out production for rousing audience’s hearts. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t derive a certain pleasure from watching it.

Based on a true story, the Craig Gillespie helmed production documents the greatest small boat rescue in Coast Guard history. When a terrible storm hits wintry coastal Massachusetts, an oil tanker is split in two, spilling oil and injuring sailors. As the ship’s engineer (Casey Affleck) tries to keep them alive long enough for rescue, a coast guard team led by Bernie (Chris Pine) is sent out in to the storm to help.

Admittedly, it is a film up to its eyeballs in schlocky, wet melodrama. For example, the central relationship between just-engaged Bernie and his fiancée Miriam (Holliday Grainger) is really beaten home with some emotional force. Reminiscent of a classical Hollywood subplot, it’s full of single tears running down cheeks and longing looks in to the distance.

Yet there are some good performances beyond this weepy surface. Casey Affleck gives a solid performance as the disliked engineman who’s married to his beloved ship rather than any human. He’s weary but confident and holds the screen surprisingly well. Pine is also a sturdy leading man, troubled by a previous rescue attempt and afraid of his own capacity to fail. While they may be characters that have been ripped from a book on how to write vintage drama, they are brought to life with just enough spark as to make them watchable.

The most pleasing moments of The Finest Hours come in the scenes at sea. Although there’s not very much visual experimentation being done, the CGI effects offer a suitably thrilling depiction of events. Indeed, the fateful moment the tanker splits on a wave is an enormous spectacle. The waves crash against the ship with a ferocious sense of weight and the way the ship is flung around offers heart-in-mouth stuff.

The Finest Hours isn’t especially inventive, nor is its narrative anything to win awards. It’s a slightly hammy piece of 1950s throwback cinema with a rousing soundtrack, conservative American family values and stock characters. It can’t be denied that it thrills though.