Preview by: Jack Foley
HAVING helped Mark Wahlberg to be taken seriously as an actor
in Boogie Nights, and after guiding Tom Cruise to a Best Supporting
Actor Oscar in Magnolia, director,
Paul Thomas Anderson, is now helping funnyman Adam Sandler to
Punch-Drunk Love, Andersons latest, opened at selected
cinemas in New York and Los Angeles over the weekend of October
11-14 and won almost universal acclaim - both for director and
Anderson had already taken the Best Director prize at Cannes
for the quirky romantic comedy and is already generating a little
Oscar buzz, while Sandler has been praised for his change of pace,
turning in one of his quietest on-screen characters for years.
The movie was inspired by the films of French director Jacques
Tati - such as Monsieur Hire and Un Coeur en Hiver - and finds
Sandlers Barry Egan as a down-on-his-luck small business
owner who is unable to find love because of the abuse he suffered
as he was growing up - he is the brother of seven sisters.
After resorting to a phone-sex line for companionship, he finds
himself blackmailed by a woman who steals his credit card number,
but his luck begins to change when he discovers a loophole that
allows him to earn one million frequent-flyer miles by purchasing
$3,000 worth of pudding.
Things get better still when Emily Watsons mysterious woman
enters his life, offering the possibility of the romance and companionship
he so craves.
The movie co-stars the likes of Anderson regulars Philip Seymour
Hoffman and Luis Guzman and lasts a mere 90 minutes - half the
length of both Magnolia and
Boogie Nights. It is said to mark something of a refinement from
the sprawling magnitude of his earlier work, while also boasting
some of the directors trademark visual flair.
Punch-Drunk Love was apparently written with Sandler in mind
and, speaking at the recent Toronto Film Festival, Sandler said
that he had committed to the project because he wanted to work
with Anderson. The 36-year-old says he still finds the need to
stretch himself in any way he can, but dismissed suggestions that
his partnership with Anderson meant a change of direction.
He may even return to stand-up comedy, following in the footsteps
of his mentor, Robin Williams.
Punch-Drunk Love attracted almost universal acclaim from critics,
even before it opened nationwide. Leading the way was Moviehole,
which declared that it was one of the best films of the
year and awarded it four out of five stars.
Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, described it as a
delightfully idiosyncratic romantic comedy that manages to give
convention a swift jab in the gut, while the New York
Times opined that any film that can discover so many
avenues of joy and any film that can bring Adam Sandler to the
New York Film Festival must be touched by some kind of magic.
The Onions A.V. Club said that it was a convincing
depiction of the mad rush of new love, with an emphasis on the
madness, while Premiere magazine awarded it a maximum
four out of four and said referred to it as a movie of undeniable
power and strangeness.
The accolades were continued by ReelViews, which said
that it was quirky and stylish, but not in a manner that
comes across as overly artsy or pretentious.
Rolling Stone predicted that Sandler and the movie
will knock you for a loop, while Variety announced
that it was entirely unpredictable and marked by audacious
strokes of directorial bravado.
TV Guide referred to it as an old-fashioned romantic
comedy, yet nothing about it seems conventional, while Boxoffice
Magazine wrote that the viewer is always in the hands
of a director who knows exactly what he is doing and awarded
it another maximum rating - four out of four.
LA Weekly went a stage further by hailing it as perhaps
the most assaultive romantic comedy in Hollywood history.
There were some who felt that the movie didnt live up to
expectations, however, with New York magazine concluding
that the result, while unique, is two-dimensional and ultimately
disappointing, while Village Voice said that Punch-Drunk
Love is a one-trick pony that, hampered by an undeveloped
script, ultimately pulls up lame.
But the negative vibe was largely confined to a minority and
we look forward to catching up with the movie when it opens in
the UK in February (date subject to change, of course).