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


A Dog’s Purpose

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

A Dog's Purpose

A conversation is running through the movie world about the pros and cons of seeing A Dog’s Purpose. Naysayers tend to be people who regard themselves as too sophisticated to endure a sentimental movie devoted to dogs. Consider the alternative. Imagine a theater full of parents with children, teenagers, and adults of all ages. What happens? Ripples of laughter, sighs of appreciation, silence when tears come. My suggestion: If you have ever loved a dog, chuck your doubts and go. If you disapprove of sentimentality, just stuff it and go. Chances are you’ll love it in spite of yourself.

Five scriptwriters and director Lasse Hallstrom have created a story about a dog who moves through reincarnations in four bodies and tells us about what he learns in each life. Dogs and human actors, all of them, are thoroughly on board with the premise. In his first life, Bailey (a retriever) lives with Ethan (K.J. Apa) and also gets to know Ethan’s girlfriend Hannah (Britt Robertson). His second unfolds as a German shepherd mastered by a lone policeman (John Ortiz). In his third, he is a Corgi, and his fourth – well, you’ll find out about that one. You’ll love Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton who create two people who have suffered without ever surrendering their dreams.

We listen to animal and human thoughts through Bailey’s four lives and we learn with great pleasure and sometimes with sadness about the interplay between them. How does each change the life of the other and what goes on while they are together. If you are a dog lover, you will love watching what Bailey, in his four selves, teaches people and what they teach him.

Much of the fun comes from sharing the movie with an audience made up of many ages. Loving a dog at some time in your life is a warm common bond. Credit an enormous number of people for making that happen. Director, cast, the dogs, and perhaps most of all, those five scriptwriters who do a terrific job on the dialogue of the dogs and their masters. All of it unfolds to a just right score assembled by music supervisor Gedney Webb.

We root for Bailey as he adjusts to life with each of his new masters. He analyzes them for us in short, often comical judgements. He is a dog looking for the purpose of his life through several lifetimes and several owners. Will there be a next round for us? If you’ve loved a dog, or loved and lost one, you’ll be happy to smile a lot, cry a little and you’ll be especially grateful to Director Lasse Hallstrom for making that happen. C’mon people, abandon your sophisticated self and enjoy the story of one fine dog working his way through several lives while looking for his purpose. There aren’t many times when you can sit in an audience of all ages that finds a movie irresistible. Try it.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : A Dog’s Purpose
Word Count : 496
Running time: 1:40
Rating : PG
Date : February 5, 2017