I will be honest and say that I am a sucker for Romantic-Comedies. There is something about them and how they manage to charm me. I find myself smiling all throughout and laughing away even if the film is almost the exact same as a million others. It's just an unshakable feeling of elation and joy. Some snobs like action movies; I like rom-coms.
So obviously, everybody thought it was strange when Paul Thomas Anderson, a young, edgy, art-house director actually made a ninety minute Adam Sandler movie. He said he wanted to do it and he did it; not only that, it was great. Anderson took an archetype the world thought it knew, isolated one trait and rolled with it to make Punch-Drunk Love.
"I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine." - Barry Egan
Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) is the owner of a novelty product company who is plagued with violent fits of rage that stemmed from the abusive words of his seven overbearing sisters. One morning, he figures out that if he buys enough pudding he will be able to get over a million free travel miles, allowing him to travel wherever he wants for the rest of his life. Shortly after, he witnesses a car crash that leaves behind a harmonium then meets Lena Leonard (Emily Watson) after she "mistakenly" drops her car off at his workplace. He brings the harmonium into his office and we are greeted by a beautiful rush of light and color and music.
If you went in thinking you were watching a standard- Sandler film, you have now realized that you are watching something much more than that.
One lonely night he calls a phone-sex line that proceeds to extort him. He cancels his credit card and, four men, commanded by mattress salesman, Dean Trumbell (Philip Seymour Hoffman in a brief and farcically intense performance), are sent out to get him. At the same time, Barry's sister brings Lena into the shop to introduce them to each other. The two go on a date and they hit it off and fall in love. From there, we see how love can change Barry to be more like who he wants to be.
To put it simply this film is hilarious in it's absurdity.
It is a film about the feeling of love. The entire film is an emotion, it's more absurd sections contributing to the feeling. The harmonium is symbolic in that it adds beauty to his life, for music is like love in how it can arise from the soul at any moment. The entire film is overexposed, even in darkness, perhaps to portray the blinding nature of love or the overpowering light it can add to life. There is a beautiful ethereal glow hanging over all of Robert Elswit's cinematography.
A quick aside: when you like someone, your pupils dilate.
The random bands of color and stars are symbolic of the way that another person can be the missing link, to color your world. The crescendos of sound and the phone-sex henchmen are symbolic of the uncertainty that comes with the beginning of a relationship.
I guess you could say I adore this movie.
What Anderson did is find something truly beautiful. Many people are very broken, unhappy, lonely, confused, awkward, and angry. Yet, no matter how broken a person can be, there will be somebody who can give love, and it is love that can make said person strong. That is the viewpoint of the film, anyway, and it is gratifying as hell to think about it.
It is obvious that Anderson put much of himself into the character of Barry, but it is Adam Sandler who makes him truly come to life. Barry is like your typical Adam Sandler man-child if he had consequences for all of his weird, farcical actions, and was played up for tragedy rather than laughs. Sandler plays him perfectly, in a performance that, in my mind, should've been given awards. Emily Watson as Lena also does an amazing job playing his foil and is simply charming the whole way through.
Punch-Drunk Love was a box-office bomb, but a critical success. Sandler was nominated for a Golden Globe, and Anderson won Best Director at Cannes. To this day, it is considered by many to be one of the best films of the '00s. Personally, I would rank it just behind Magnolia, at number five overall in my rankings of his films, though I can see it moving up in the near future. As I've said before, I'll explain later.
By 2002, It became obvious that it was officially impossible to predict Paul Thomas Anderson's next film, and I could believe that absolutely nobody saw it coming. Absolutely nobody. Perhaps not even Anderson saw it coming.
Up Next: Oil, Money, and Milkshakes.