I owe a lot to Adam Driver. The first ever piece I wrote for the tmrw website (*the dandy ol’ thing you’re on right now*) was a film feature titled ‘An Ode To Adam Driver’. It was way too long, and contained a distracting number of superlatives, but the editor seemed to like it. He liked it enough to ask me to write some more things. Now I have a cool job.
The Adam Driver thing worked because I really, really like Adam Driver. I really like him. There’s this old saying; ‘write what you know’. That’s wrong, I think. Don’t write you know, because what you know might be boring and shit. Write what you like. Because what you like is never boring and shit – at least not to you. If it was, you wouldn’t like it. Probably. Anyhow, I digress.
To return to the original point: I really, really, really like Adam Driver. I think he’s brilliant. I loved him in Girls, loved him in Star Wars, loved him in This Is Where I Leave You, Hungry Hearts, Frances Ha, While We’re Young, Midnight Special – everything. While I want to avoid repeating what the original feature so hyperbolically addressed, I truly believe that he will be one of the most important actors of his generation. He has everything in his power to do so.
So why am I back? Because it’s my duty, that’s why. Well, that, and because the trailer for Jim Jarmusch’s highly-anticipated Paterson finally dropped, in which Driver stars. It’s a muted, maundering preview of what looks set to be a return to Jarmusch’s poetic peak. Our man plays the titular bus driver who shares a name with the titular New Jersey town. Response to the previews has been overwhelmingly positive, with the majority of the praise falling on – yep, that’s right – Adam Driver. Ding ding ding ding!
Here’s the thing. I believe that Driver is part of a new breed of male actor. Right now, in 2016, the All-American Movie Star is pretty much extinct. Brad Pitt’s still flying the flag, granted – but the cut-off point falls pretty much immediately after Ryan Gosling. These are guys whose name alone will carry a film; they’re part of a Tinsel Town era that is becoming increasingly anachronistic in the contemporary industry. To use the latter as an example, although Gosling is – on his day – one of the best in the business, it’s hard to completely desensitise yourself into thinking that you aren’t watching a Ryan Gosling movie. It becomes an event. If you’re excited by the prospect of La La Land, chances are you carry such enthusiasm because you want to see the man himself do his thing alongside Emma Stone. You’ve probably said as much, in actual real-life. Gosling’s a Hollywood brand. But Driver represents something different. He’s your postmodern leading man.
In the aforementioned original piece, I referred to Driver’s inherent magnetism as being of a Brando-esque quality. That’s something I still maintain, although in terms of straight comparison, I think he shares qualities with a different member of the late-greats – the actor in question being Philip Seymour Hoffman. Like Hoffman, Driver’s range is startling. He can dip from funny to terrifying to quirky to alpha to perplexing to pretty-much-anything-else with apparent nonchalance. There’s the look, too. For two men with such striking facial features, they’re chameleons. Apply the Ryan Gosling conundrum to Hoffman or Driver and you’ll come away with no problems. Though these guys dominate, it is their characters that do so. The actors are transparent; invisible.
In the Paterson trailer, the prolific scene-stealer is the antithesis of his usual noticability. The film seems to flow pensively, from exchange to exchange, and Driver becomes entangled with Jarmusch’s filmic ecosystem. He’s understated, barely even there – and he’s never looked better.
Soon, we’ll see him in Martin Scorcese’s Silence, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote and Steven Soderbergh’s Lucky Logan. As I’m sure you’re aware, these fellas are no mugs – and Driver’s boasting a top billing. The rest of the world is cottoning on, and it can’t come quickly enough. It’s the Year of the Driver – film’s going to be nicer for it.
Words by Niall Flynn