Punch-Drunk Love

Year: 2002
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson

RYAN’S REVIEW

Since growing out of puberty I have had little interest in the work of Adam Sandler. Any time I come across one of his many films I feel reaffirmed in my lack of interest and learn more and more to ignore him all together. Yet on the rarest of occasions he branches out from toilet humor and does something different. Under those circumstances I have been pleased with a couple of his performances and I really think he is capable of more than what he typically does. There is a youthful spirit still alive inside of me that wants to love Billy Madison/Happy Gilmore despite how ridiculous I find most of what he does. I think Adam Sandler is a terrific actor but his typical work is garbage. Albeit garbage that makes tons and tons of money so who am I to criticize? I might think his humor is juvenile and pathetic but he continues to succeed at it despite what I think. Though, in the 13 years since this film came out I wish we had more of these kinds of films and less of his Happy Madison studio crap.

This is as different a role as Adam Sandler has played in his entire career. He isn’t funny but dramatic, playing a character that couldn’t be any more awkward and painfully depressed. As Barry, the bullied brother of several older sisters, he is so alone in the world and so desperate for a connection with someone. People like Barry can so easily become victims, and that in a nutshell is Barry’s problem. He grew up as the victim of his older sisters and has matured into a victim of the world. A tortured soul suffering in the madness of his own self loathing and isolation. When he tries to confide in people he feels betrayed, be it from a brother-in-law or a phone sex operator. Barry is a weird guy, and when weird things happen to weird people the story is always an interesting one. I love how weird and strange Barry Egan is and this is without doubt my favorite performance ever by Sandler. I love his random dancing in the supermarket and how he rises to the occasion as a badass when his girlfriend is threatened. Sandler made a pile of dough acting like a moron but this role clearly proves he could have done anything he wanted to a lifetime ago. As Egan he is such a different and original character. With his mannerisms, his awkwardness, and his insane tendencies Barry Egan is a portrait of desperation and of longing. I love this character and I enjoy watching him overcome his problems to find something hopefully on the path to happiness.

Something that I will never forget about this movie is the performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and how blown away I was by it. I had known about him and respected him prior to seeing this film but I had no idea he had badass inside of him. I have wholeheartedly loved several of his performances but in truth he never really reached his full potential as an actor. I was really disappointed to hear about his death and the manner of it. I felt like it tarnished his character and reputation in the worst of ways. My heart breaks at anybody that goes before their time but when you poison yourself to death with drugs I don’t think pity is necessary. Nevertheless the man was a terrific actor and he left us with many great performances. With his role in this film he showed me that he had more range than I thought he was capable of. He scared me as this pseudo gangster mattress man. I’d seen him do so many things yet never imagined he was capable of a role like this. I love when an actor does that. Hoffman is an anomaly for me. He has done what I most admire about actors by being incredibly diverse but he has also done what I most despise most about celebrities by falling victim to a despicable addiction all the same. He has come full circle as an actor for me in such an interesting way.

In truth, Paul Thomas Anderson is such a smart filmmaker I think I could watch this movie ten times and still not cover everything in a review. For example, so subtly Luis Guzman starts wearing a suit. It is remarked in the film that Sandler never wears a suit to work but once he does Guzman subtly in the background starts wearing one as well taking his lead from the boss. It’s an example of the small little details that Anderson doesn’t overlook as a director.  Anderson is the type of filmmaker we don’t get enough out of as an audience. Too much of the audience leaves the show confused and for those of us that get it we are too demanding as fans. I like Paul Thomas Anderson but I’m not an obsessive fan of his. I only say so because I am under the impression he has a crazy fan base, which I think is understandable. I’ll never forget once while I was in college I mentioned either this movie or Magnolia in class once. The most unlikeliest of people approached me afterwards with something along the lines of “So you’re into PTA?” I’ll never forget that because it took me way too long to realize he was referring to a filmmaker and what had prompted the conversation all together. Point being, I’m under the impression there is a network of fans out there dedicated to the guy. I get it though; this guy can make such compelling movies. I was never a fan of There Will Be Blood, but maybe it is due a reviewing. This, and Magnolia, prove to me enough that “PTA” is an exceptional filmmaker worth watching at all times. I have yet to see his latest film but this movie is starting to inspire me to watch a few things again or for the first time.

This is such a weird film, but I love it so much. It is a beautiful film and I love what Anderson is able to do with silhouettes in shot. The story is surprisingly interesting, the type that you can’t convey when you are trying to tell someone about it. A great director and filmmaker can do that to you. He can inspire you with something so magnificent that you can’t even find the words to describe what you are feeling. In this movie we get a glimpse of a life none of us lead but we feel like we were there in the thick of it. That’s the mark of an exceptional story teller and the really exceptional ones are the ones that only do it randomly. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Paul Thomas Anderson then you really have something to look forward to because there are several movies that might blow you away.

I think this is without doubt Adam Sandler’s greatest film. Given the recent box office disasters he has been making is it possible that everyone else is beginning to notice what I saw beginning when Little Nicky  came out 15 years ago. The Waterboy was only mildly good at best and even then I was beginning to think I was outgrowing him. When Little Nicky came out I felt like the writing was on the wall only nobody wanted to admit it. I have always felt like people would like things because they thought they were supposed to like them. One of the biggest examples that immediately comes to mind is Ron Burgundy I have never understood what people saw in that movie other than the fact that they thought they were supposed to like it. I have had a disappointed opinion of Sandler since 2000 so I’ll be the first to admit that it’s possible he has made some really funny movies I haven’t seen. I have seen enough of them to stay solid in my opinion though. I think he is better than the juvenile toilet humor he spends his time making. It is because of this movie that I feel that way. This movie proves Sandler is capable of more and I hope that one day we see more of it.

I have never successfully talked anyone into watching this movie. I have talked with many people who have already seen it and loved it but I have never actually been able to talk someone into seeing it for the first time. I have even loaned it out a couple of times and had to ask for it back unseen after an unreasonable amount of time. I think that it’s because it’s  easy to read the synopsis and not be interested. It’s also easy to start this movie and immediately find it boring but you have to preserver in this one. You have to let this one suck you in and take you for a ride. Give this movie your time and attention and I absolutely guarantee that not only was it worth your time but that you will probably really enjoy it.

NEXT MOVIE: The Purge (2013)

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