Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Punch Drunk Love

Punch Drunk Love; tragicomedy / romance, USA, 2002; D: Paul Thomas Anderson, S: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzmán, Mary Lynn Rajskub

Barry works in a delivery company, has seven sisters who offend him and is feeling more and more crushed by his neverending loneliness. One morning, a car flips on the road while another one leaves a piano near the entrance of his company, which Barry takes in. He also buys large amounts of pudding for a promotion of frequent flyer miles, thinking it is based on a marketing error which could allow him limitless free flights. Out of loneliness, he calls call girl Georgie, but she starts harassing him, as well, demanding $750. Barry finally meets Lena who becomes his long awaited girlfriend. They have a romantic trip in Hawaii. In order to extract the money from Georgie's demand, four henchmen ram the car and injure Lena in it, which makes Barry go crazy. He meets the henchmen boss, Dean, and threatens him to leave his life alone. Barry then returns to Lena.

After finishing his epic 3-hour drama "Magnolia", the news that the critically recognized director Paul Thomas Anderson is making his next film with the panned comedian Adam Sandler, with a normal running time of only 90 minutes, came as a huge surprise for his followers, who feared it might end in a disaster. Luckily, Anderson managed to prolong his talent even on the field of a romantic comedy, giving Sandler an excellent, introverted, restrained, dignified, emotional and serious role, for which the latter received his first Golden Globe nod. Sandler could indeed be thankful for receiving such an opportunity, which features him in his finest hour — and also tackles Anderson's frequent theme of an outsider trying to cope with loneliness and/or searching for love. The opening act is rather bizarre (one car flips, while another one stops for the driver to leave a piano near the street), dwelling too much on symbolism; the hysteria and slightly mean-spirited tone start to dominate at a point of the film (seven sisters harassing their brother, Barry) whereas the thriller segment of the story, involving a call girl who tries to blackmail the hero, is unnecessary and rather incomplete, which leaves all these ingredients in the film feel slightly uneven. Still, the romantic segment of the film works fine, and this is where "Punch Drunk Love" plays it to the hill, nicely establishing Barry's loneliness (a comical moment where he asks Walter for help: "I wanted to ask you something because you're a doctor... I don't like myself sometimes. Can you help me?" - "Barry, I'm a dentist.") as well as his love, Lena, who "saves him", which gives him self-esteem (the suggestive scene where he hits the map of the US) and completes his character arc, and Emily Watson gives another typical excellent performance as his love interest. Overall, not one of Anderson's best films — but still easily one of Sandler's.


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