Rating: 8.4/10 - Excellent
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson. Producers: Paul Thomas Anderson, JoAnne Sellar and Daniel Lupi. Editor: Leslie Jones. Cinematographer: Robert Elswit. Score: Jon Brion. Distributor: Columbia Pictures. Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman and Mary Lynn Rajskub. Running Time: 95 Minutes.
This is a love story unlike any you have seen before.
Punch-Drunk Love tells the story of Barry Egans (Adam Sandler), a lonely man who owns a small business that sells themed toilet plungers and is constantly teased by all seven of his sisters who seem to enjoy continually belittling him. Despite all this, Barry seems to be content with his life. It is only during one fateful morning when he witnesses a rather strange car accident, picks up an abandoned harmonium on the side of the road and meets Lena Leonard (Emily Watson) that his life starts to change. Combined with his plan to exploit a flaw in a pudding company's promotion that will earn him one million frequent flyer miles for less than the actual cost of earning the miles, this confluence of events leads to some unpleasant confrontations with unsavoury characters that put his love and commitment for Lena to the test.
According to Wikipedia, Punch-Drunk Love is supposedly a romantic comedy-drama but I have to say that after watching it, I'm not quite sure about the comedy but there is certainly enough romance and drama to keep you engrossed for the entire duration of the film. In true PTA style every scene is meticulously crafted, every shot expertly selected and the music, like the film itself, is quirky, off-beat and downright distracting at times yet somehow it works. Everything works. Most notably Adam Sandler's performance which is easily the apex of his otherwise lowest common denominator acting career. Make no mistake, the Adam Sandler we see here is the same one we've seen before in numerous comedies, most recently the incredibly unfunny Just Go With It. He still has his trademark Cheshire Cat-like grin and that vacant gaze about him that we've seen countless times before. The difference here is that he is working with a director and a screenplay that allow him to channel his effervescent energy into a character with real, raw emotion looking for that most basic yet elusive of human desires: the need to love and to be loved. It is this desire that drives the narrative forward, that drives forward Barry and Lena's beautifully awkward attempts at making something of their budding relationship.
As with Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights and Tom Cruise in Magnolia, PTA once again proves himself to be the epitome of an actor's director by bringing out an outstanding performance from Adam Sandler that no one else would've believed he was capable of. With the aid of his long-time cinematographer Robert Elswit, PTA uses some dazzling camera-work to great effect, creating sombre visual montages that capture the true essence of the main characters' desperate loneliness.
If you can you must also have a look at the special features that come with the DVD. There's some great extended and deleted scenes that are worth watching.
Verdict: A raw, honest film about love, loneliness and obsession without the usual histrionics that plague the romantic comedy genre. Adam Sandler's performance alone makes this a must-see.
Punch-Drunk Love is available now on DVD.