Punch-Drunk Love

"Good"

Punch-Drunk Love Review


Dingbat love has never been as oddly appealing as in "Punch-Drunk Love," a surrealistically fluffy romance from the traditionally somber Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia").

Affably, obligingly abstract from the curiously inspired casting of Adam Sandler as a meek, sad, eccentric romantic hero to the peculiar plot about sex chat-line extortion and pudding-procured frequent flyer miles, it's a charming, strange little movie that strikes at the heart while the head is still trying to figure it out.

The story begins about 6 in the morning, with early-to-rise goofball entrepreneur Barry Egan (Sandler) sitting at a plain desk in the empty corner of the warehouse where his startup company makes novelty toilet plungers (wedding cake figurines perched atop the handle, dice and dollar bills in transparent handles for Vegas hotels, etc.). Compelled to take a walk outside with his ever-present cup of coffee, he witnesses a traffic accident on the near-empty street, while at the same time a minivan pulls up in front of him and dumps a harmonium (like a miniature console piano with accordion bellows under the keyboard) on the curb for no discernable reason. Such is the irrationally whimsical world of a P.T. Anderson picture.

The harmonium becomes Barry's touchstone as his psyche is soon battered from some quarters -- he has seven domineering sisters who treat him like an emotional punching bag -- and soothed from others. One sister sets him up with a quirky co-worker named Lena (Emily Watson) and instantly there's some subtle magic in the air -- something pulling them together like magnets.

The wonderful Watson -- just seen as the killer's blind girlfriend in "Red Dragon," but best known for sorrowful roles in grim dramas like "Angela's Ashes" and "Breaking the Waves" -- infuses Lena with both an altruistic femininity and a sweetly awkward lack of certitude that makes her attraction to Barry seem like destiny even though she can see he's a fidgety flake with some weird problems.

One of those problems is that before they met, Barry was seeking psychotherapy in all the wrong places, including from a brother-in-law ("I don't like myself sometimes. Can you help me?" "Barry, I'm a dentist.") and from a phone sex operator, who scammed him big time, thinking he was rich. It seems she got the idea that Barry had lots of money because of something he said about frequent flier miles, and now she's trying to extort him for more.

In fact, to get those miles Barry had run a scam of his own, taking advantage of a loophole in an airfare contest run by a health food company that allowed him to redeem proofs of purchase worth more than the 25-cent cups of pudding they were printed on. (This element of the plot is actually based on someone who did this in real life!)

Being taken advantage of with such tenacity resurfaces Barry's childhood problem controlling his anger, throwing a wildcard element into the movie that's handled with brilliantly visceral cinematic aplomb by writer-director Anderson. When our hero's head fills with rage, the camera becomes kinetic and the sound muffled, buffering Barry's docile consciousness from his actions as he, for example, beats the stuffing out of some small-time thugs who have come from Utah to intimidate him on behalf of the porn line swindlers.

Sandler gives a performance that is freshly anachronistic but ever so slightly familiar, especially in these scenes that play to his capacity for all-over-the-map emoting. But he's also genuine and open-hearted with Watson, as their characters take mutually awkward steps toward romance before Barry makes one huge leap: Running away from his problems as much as running toward Lena, he follows her on a business trip to Hawaii, at first by trying to cash in his pudding miles before discovering they take six to eight weeks to redeem.

Captivating, capricious and delectably eclectic, "Punch-Drunk Love" is every inch an Anderson movie that decyphers its characters' souls while leaving layers of subliminal import to work their way into your consciousness over the days and weeks afterwards in beguiling little ways. Everything in the film has a meaning, be it the costumes (Lena wears Doris Day-like cashmere sweaters and Barry never changes out of his brand-new, bright blue suit) or the uncanny, effervescent score (harmonium included, of course) and colorful, Mark Rothko-like modern-art scene transitions that help create a calypso ambiance.

Far more than a cry for respectability from Sandler (Anderson would never agree to something that cheap), this is a melodious, astutely unconventional romantic comedy and the kind of idiosyncratic delight that makes going to the movies genuinely fun for anyone interested in more fulfilling fare than the multiplex offers.



Punch-Drunk Love

Facts and Figures

Run time: 95 mins

In Theaters: Friday 1st November 2002

Box Office USA: $17.8M

Box Office Worldwide: $17M

Budget: $25M

Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

Production compaines: Columbia Pictures, New Line Cinema, Ghoulardi Film Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 145 Rotten: 39

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Barry Egan, as Lena Leonard, as Dean Trumbell, as Lance, as Elizabeth, as Walter the Dentist, as Operator Carter, Don McManus as Plastic, David Schrempf as Customer #1, Seann Conway as Customer #2, Rico Bueno as Rico, Hazel Mailloux as Rhonda, Karen Kilgariff as Anna, Julie Hermelin as Kathleen, Salvador Curiel as Sal, Jorge Barahona as Jorge, Ernesto Quintero as Ernesto, Julius Steuer as Mechanic, Lisa Spector as Susan, Nicole Gelbard as Nicole, Mia Weinberg as Gilda, Karen Hermelin as Anna, Larry Ring as Steve / Brother-in-Law, Kerry Gelbard as Richard / Brother-in-Law, Ashley Clark as Phone Sex Sister

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Office Christmas Party Movie Review

Office Christmas Party Movie Review

Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman reunite with The Switch directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck...

Snowden Movie Review

Snowden Movie Review

Here's another remarkable biopic from Oliver Stone, who has used all-star casts and intensely pointed...

The Birth of a Nation Movie Review

The Birth of a Nation Movie Review

This true story from 19th century America feels eerily relevant today in its depiction of...

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Advertisement
Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.