Legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese recently called Adam Driver, “one of the best, if not the best, actors of his generation.” Renowned director Terry Gilliam suggested Driver is the best after working with him on the criminally overlooked, long-gestating The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
Better board the bandwagon now. Driver will get a Best Actor Oscar nomination for either Scott Z. Burns’ The Report or Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story in the coming months.
But before those films drop — not to mention Star Wars: Episode IX — let’s take some time to appreciate the talents of Mr. Driver and the best of his diverse filmography that’s available to stream in October.
Paterson – Amazon Prime Video
In a role that’s quite a departure from his obnoxious, impulsive breakout character on the TV show Girls, Driver takes the measured lead of this quiet film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch.
Set in Paterson, New Jersey, Paterson follows a bus driver named Paterson (Driver) who finds beauty in the simplicity of a structured daily schedule in a small Northeastern town.
In most of his spare time, be it on a lunch break or on off days from work, Paterson writes poetry that he keeps to himself in a notebook. Paterson’s domestic partner Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) encourages her intensely private man to at the very least print off the poems from his notebook, which he’s reluctant to do.
Meanwhile, Paterson encourages Laura’s various creative endeavors and her big dreams, creating a delightful, supportive dynamic. Their conflict stems primarily from their dog, which I won’t spoil here.
This slice of life portrait doesn’t follow a three-act structure with a cathartic climax, so don’t go in expecting anything of that variety. It’s largely a showcase for Driver’s ability to communicate without speaking as he quietly observes the world around him.
Inside Llewyn Davis – Amazon Prime Video
Playing a small but memorable supporting role as musician Al Cody in the Coen Brothers’ gloomy portrait of the folk music scene in early 1960s New York City, Driver’s comic timing really stands out here.
The best scene is easily in the recording studio. Driver’s Cody is seated around a microphone with guitar-playing Oscar Isaac’s eponymous character and none other than Justin Timberlake.
JT’s character Jim writes a corny, poppy song about the space race titled, “Please Mr. Kennedy,” to which Al Cody contributes pre-recording grunts and strange vocal warm-up techniques. Once the session officially clears for liftoff, the song is highlighted by Cody’s interjecting “Outer!” “Space!” and “Uh-Oh!” backing vocals.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a rather depressing movie overall, and Llewyn is not the most likeable character in the way that central protagonists often are. But even the bit of time Driver is on the screen is worth the watch.
What If? – Amazon Prime Video
This underrated romantic comedy sees Driver channel some of his Girls glory as the outgoing, hilarious Allan provides counsel to unassertive introvert Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) as the latter tries to escape from the friend zone of his longtime crush Chantry (Zoe Kazan).
Allan meets the love of his life Nicole (Mackenzie Davis) at a party in the film’s first several minutes and eventually marries her shotgun-style. Let’s just say they’re big PDA enthusiasts throughout.
What If? largely takes place in Toronto, and even if the story isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it’s pretty darn funny to see Kylo Ren and Harry Potter share the screen and have a great rapport in such a wildly different setting than their mega franchises.
Hungry Hearts – Hulu
The independent film section on Hulu is really where it’s at. This is a harrowing story of a couple who decides to try to make it work after a chance meeting in a bathroom abroad and a sudden, accidental pregnancy not long thereafter.
Without spoiling too much, suffice it to say Driver’s Jude and Alba Rohrwacher’s Mina do not see eye to eye when it comes to how to raise their child.
Driver won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor (and Rohrwacher for Best Actress) at the Venice International Film Festival where Hungry Hearts premiered back in 2014, and for good reason. Many world-class actors have earned the distinction such as Oscar winners Sean Penn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Colin Firth, Javier Bardem and Jack Lemmon, to name some.
While We’re Young – Netflix
Co-star Ben Stiller compared Driver to a young Marlon Brando after working with him on this film, which is some of the highest praise an actor can get.
We’re seeing a trend here, no?
Playing a slithering, rather ill-intentioned hipster and pseudo-filmmaker named Jamie in While We’re Young, Driver’s character, along with his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried), coax their way into socializing with Josh (Stiller) and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) and make the older couple feel young again.
It’s a lot of really cerebral dialogue, and especially the beginning of this movie feels perhaps better suited for the stage. However, whenever Driver pops up, like many of his roles, you never quite know what’s going to happen or where exactly he’s coming from. And that’s meant to be a compliment.
One highlight is a mini retreat where the quartet trips out on ayahuasca. This is a film that may well grow on you after you’ve seen it, but again Driver is must-see viewing, especially for those fascinated by the craft of acting.
Logan Lucky – Amazon Prime Video
There’s no question Driver does funny well, but this is a far different flavor of humor than he’s offered before.
Yes, his character does have some neurosis going on, yet Clyde Logan’s thought process is so deliberate that it alters Driver’s characterization so drastically from any other role he’s played.
What a fun cast this is, too. As was the case in What If?, Driver shares scenes in Logan Lucky with another franchise giant, James Bond himself: Daniel Craig’s bleach-blond Joe Bang.
There’s an elaborate heist plot that Bang has to help Clyde and Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) execute. Director Steven Soderbergh channels his experience on the Oceans films to deliver another great caper comedy.
Tatum proved he could be incredibly funny in the 21 Jump Street reboot. He and Driver are outstanding as brothers from West Virginia whose hearts are ultimately in the right place despite their illegal activities.
BlacKkKlansman – HBO Go/HBO Now
This Spike Lee joint was nominated for six Academy Awards and won Best Adapted Screenplay. Driver was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Detective Philip “Flip” Zimmerman, who goes undercover to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.
The humor in this movie borders on the absurd and is all the more incisive because it’s also based on a true story. BlacKkKlansman holds a mirror to current American society despite being set in the early 1970s.
Lee isn’t one to shy away from politics and racism and how those issues coincide in history. He takes it to another level in what has to be his best film in years.
To focus back on Driver: in an with the BBC, Lee stretched his limbs’ limitations to illustrate his respect for the towering actor.
Recently at the New York Film Festival, again Lee applauded Driver, proclaiming, “Adam Driver is amazing in everything!”
Thank you, Mr. Lee, for further justifying the existence of this article.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Netflix
You had to know it was coming, right? Kylo Ren is back and even more complicated in Episode VIII, Rian Johnson’s controversial middle chapter to the sequel trilogy.
Driver’s scenes with Daisy Ridley’s Rey are among the best in the entire saga. The apex of their shared screen time is the throne room sequence when facing Supreme Leader Snoke. All the narrative threads that come together for that penultimate act climax are downright thrilling. Johnson subverts expectations in such a way that it’s impossible not to be intrigued.
But what really ties the whole film together is how Ren and Rey interact.
For whatever controversy anyone likes to spout off about Luke Skywalker — by the way, Mark Hamill was devastatingly good in his proper return to the character, his own initial disagreements notwithstanding — no one can really deny how good the dynamic is between Driver and Ridley.
Stepping into the shoes of the Star Wars sequel trilogy’s new main villain wasn’t the easiest task, but Driver has been more than game and has been widely praised for his performance across the two films to date.
The work he does in The Last Jedi, though, is downright special, and his storyline provides plenty of intrigue for December’s finale, The Rise of Skywalker.