Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurette; 3 deleted scenes; Photo
montage; Teaser trailer; Theatrical trailer.
ADAM Sandler has made a career out of portraying put-upon loners
who triumph against the odds in romantic comedies; yet few of
his previous efforts rate as highly as his latest, Punch-Drunk
The usual characteristics are there, but they are somehow transformed
in the hands of a great director; so much so, that the picture
will probably rate among the years finest when the time
comes to reflect on the past 12 months.
Punch-Drunk Love is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (the talent
behind Boogie Nights and Magnolia)
and also marks a reigning in of his usually excessive style. It
clocks in at an all too tight 90 minutes, but manages to enthral,
astound and inspire throughout.
Sandler plays Barry Egan, an eccentric businessman with anger
management issues, whose daily plight is made all the more unbearable
by the relentless bullying of his seven, self-obsessed sisters.
His problems are compounded when, during a moment of weakness,
he calls a phone sex line and ends up being blackmailed by the
corrupt people running it (headed by the ultra-sleazy Philip Seymour
Yet redemption is close at hand, in the form of Emily Watsons
kooky Lena Leonard, with whom he begins a tentative relationship,
while coming to terms with his own inadequacies.
The ensuing tale may not sound like much of a stretch for Sandler,
yet by taking many of his usual characteristics and turning them
on their head, the actor produces something of a tour-de-force;
albeit guided by Andersons quirky direction.
For instance, the bullish anger which accompanies most of the
stars romantic heroes is present here, but far more restrained
than usual. Egan is like a volcano waiting to explode and frequently
takes his frustrations out on furniture, rather than people, so
that when he finally lets go, his actions seem all the more understandable
- the suffering he has previously had to endure is, at times,
Likewise, Egan, at heart, is an intelligent, sensitive soul,
whose capacity to be himself is stifled by the domineering presence
of his sisters. So whereas the actor usually plays up being the
idiot, here he is merely an ordinary guy forced to suffer extraordinary
Watson is like a breath of fresh air in his life, someone who
offers him the chance to realise his potential and gain some self-belief,
and theres is a relationship worth rooting for, despite
being fraught with obstacles - not least Hoffmans bullish
thug, whose increasingly desperate attempts to get money out of
Egan lead to a wonderfully observed confrontation.
This is, stripped bare, a classic romantic comedy, given a barbed
edge by the precociously talented Anderson, whose presence lends
the film its refreshingly unique style.
While it may lack the dazzling excess of, say, Magnolia, the
trademark surrealism and visual flair for which he is becoming
known punctuates proceedings, especially during the opening moments,
when an unexplained car crash is coupled with the dumping of a
harmonium that inexplicably contributes to the changes in Egans
For Anderson, this is a glorious sonnet to sit alongside the
operatic likes of his earlier work, while for Sandler, the movie
is nothing short of a revelation. Both emotionally engaging and
genuinely funny, it is a romantic gem.