An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


Let the mood of Paterson roll gently over you. We are taken out of the spinning culture of our lives and dropped into the quiet world of Paterson, driver of bus #23 in Paterson, NJ. By movie’s end we sit in stillness thinking about the man we have been watching and that alone is a tribute to the movie.

How does writer/director Jim Jarmusch create Paterson’s world? As he focuses on one week in the bus driver’s life, we learn that this quiet man wakes up each morning at 6:15 while lying peacefully in bed with his sleeping wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). Her sleepy smile says both good morning and good-bye to the man she obviously loves.

Then it’s downstairs to a bowl of Cheerios where Paterson’s attention is caught by a box of matches that becomes fodder for the poem he will write in his head as he drives that day. He listens to the chatter of his passengers, acknowledges a fellow bus driver with a toot of his horn, returns to the bus station, and walks home. When he walks his dog after dinner, he stops at a bar for just one beer and a little conversation, his only connection to the outside world. He is a man of silent habit.

Meanwhile, Laura is at home turning their small house into a canvas of black and white abstractions. Throughout her day she paints the floors, walls, curtains, rugs – everything – including all her clothes in bi-colored angles and swirls. Her art is as demanding of attention as Patterson’s is private.

The two are together in the evening and share the small details she brings up to draw him in. When Laura says she had a dream about having twins, Paterson’s first thought is, “one for each of us.” When he starts noticing twins on his drives, we know they are going into his poetry – one for him, one for her. And that’s their chemistry. In two lives free of bedeviling distractions, they pursue their separate artistic passions. While Laura sees everything in terms of black and white design, Paterson sees everything around him in terms of his poetry.

In answer to writer/director Jarmusch, actor Adam Driver has created a man whose poems emerge from the details he absorbs on his bus drives. When he returns home to the woman he loves, he makes no comment on the extraordinary geometry she has made of their house. That’s hers, not his. And that’s their way.

In Adam Driver, Jim Jarmusch found the perfect messenger for the character and atmosphere he had imagined. We watch a silent bus driver isolated in creative design as he absorbs the smallest details of life around him. At the end of the day, he remains quiet even in the chaos of Laura’s abstractions. Director Jarmusch’s hopes are beautifully realized in Paterson the poet, and we reenter the outside world knowing we have seen something that was dear to its writer/director.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Paterson
Word Count : 500
Running time: 1:58
Rating : R
Date : February 12, 2017



An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


Allied is an odd mix of touching moments and bad judgement. It offers a sub/middling performance by Brad Pitt and a warm, sophisticated one by Marion Cotillard who has to put all the punch in their relationship. But let’s start at the beginning.

Premise: Intelligence officer Max (Brad Pitt) is to meet French Resistance figure Marianne (Marion Cotillard) in order to play a husband/wife team who will murder the Nazi ambassador during an elegant wartime reception in Casablanca. For just a second we wonder if there might have been an easier way for him to get there than by parachuting into the Moroccan desert.

Director Robert Zemeckis and writer Steven Knight deserve no forgiveness for what they do to this promising World War II premise. An enormous cast creates party goers, soldiers, pilots, Nazis, and dead bodies but all of them are presented in contemporary detail and language.

The focus is on Pitt and Cotillard as they try to convince the Nazis that they are married lovers. Here’s the tough part: Watching Pitt isn’t easy. He is simply too wooden to carry the romantic lead. We root for him, hoping his stone face is simply a reflection of his serious assignment, but no, he’s just plain stiff. Put a gun in his hand or a cliff to jump off and he becomes slightly more animated though still ruinously contemporary.

Cotillard, carrying the movie opposite Pitt’s cardboard figure, does a fine job of creating a spy clever enough to fool both the Allies and the Nazis. She can convey deep emotion with the slightest change in expression, and that is the key to her role here as a possible double agent.

Suddenly they are married with a baby back in wartime England where Max is faced with the accusation that Marianne may be a spy. Pitt comes alive just a little as he tries to prove her innocence.

The major problem here is cultural error in the silliest of ways. Behavior and language in the supporting cast are not remotely rooted in 1943. Example: fu….g was a mere verb back then, not the dominant adjective of today and its frequent use here plants the movie firmly in today’s culture. Nor is it possible to believe a modern poster boy as a spy in the war that shook the world more than seventy years ago. And Brad Pitt as a linguist?

It is all too obvious that Director Robert Zemeckis (age 65) and writer Steven Knight (57) haven’t bothered to do the research that could have brought WWII alive on the screen. The movie they have made has few roots in the 1940s, and that’s a shame because they had a good plot. As it is, older audience members are often close to laughter – or resentment – while younger ones are denied the chance to soak up an important piece of history. The problem? The audience really wants to like it and can’t.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Allied
Word count : 497
Running time : 2:04
Rating : R
Date : December 4, 2016