MOVIE REVIEW: “Punch-Drunk Love” stars Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems, Big Daddy), Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, Gosford Park), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Moneyball, The Savages), Luis Guzman (Traffic, Boogie Nights), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24 [TV series], Little Miss Sunshine), Robert Smigel (Marriage Story , This is 40), and Karen Kilgariff (Licorice Pizza, Craig of the Creek [TV series]). It is written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread).
A quiet businessman with immense inner rage sparks a relationship with a woman who travels frequently.
We’re finishing off February with a random Paul Thomas Anderson title, “Punch-Drunk Love,” where Adam Sandler is as serious as the movie is boggling.
When it comes to PTA films, I’m not too knowledgeable. I’ve only seen “Phantom Thread,” and hope to see “Licorice Pizza” before the latest Oscars airs. I know of his legend status amongst the Hollywood elite, and from what I hear by friends who watch his movies, he has a rather… interesting style. “Punch-Drunk Love,” a non-conventional romance, is no exception.
Adam Sandler plays a depressed man with a ton of suppressed rage. He has seven sisters (him being the only boy), and is constantly pushed around, both by them and life itself. He’s a recluse; often quiet and all the more anti-social. His quirks are rather strange, and Sandler embodies the role to the max. We’re familiar with his serious turn in “Uncut Gems,” but this side to the Sand Man has been around for a long while. Anderson crafted a unique character who unleashes his anger in small spurts and apologizes profusely for it. I found myself engaged with the role; studying Sandler’s ticks and trying to figure out how his journey would unfold.
Low and behold, this is a romance picture. Not the usual romance, mind you, but a romance nonetheless. The story structure, while linear, certainly takes you on a topsy turvy ride of uncertainty. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the journey, or how far the character Barry Egan would go. There were a few moments where I said to myself “this can’t be the end” (as the editing lent itself to such), only for the narrative to continue. It’s rather unpredictable, and that all is attributed to Anderson’s style of filmmaking. The camera is almost always handheld, moving about the locations in a free-flowing manner. It’s almost as if it is inviting the actors to play with the space, while the camera is simply along for the ride (much like myself as the viewer). This makes for a chaotic atmosphere, and quite a bit of moments found me raising an eyebrow; it’s a raw, naturalistic experience that doesn’t confine itself to the typical conventions of storytelling (one primary example being the random inserts of streams of color that will pop up from time to time).
I didn’t quite know what to make of the movie once it ended. It’s a weird one. Something I probably won’t revisit, but it has moments that have stuck with me. While stylistically it is strange, there are a few shots that are simply gorgeous (the big one being the silhouette shot that is featured in the poster). Pair it with Jon Brion’s experimental score (as he is known to contribute), and you’ve got something that will pull you in and never let go. The performances are engrossing, particularly Sandler’s. He’s someone I would think I understand until I don’t, but that’s what makes him special. And though this isn’t the kind of romance flick I would find myself reaching for, I give it mad props for being original both in story and style.
“Punch-Drunk Love” is not for everybody, but it excites in how out-there it is. The spiral that Barry takes only to come out stronger on the other side is a brilliant arc and role to see captured on screen; it’s certainly the glue that holds everything together. While the strange style lends itself to a niche crowd, I think at the very least you will have an experience unlike any other (which we need in a sea of familiarity with film). In its awkward, wild, at-times chaotic nature, there is beauty to be found in the narrative. I think it is at least worth watching once. FINAL SCORE: 80%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer:
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