Punch Drunk Love (2002): ****
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
What a horrifying yet absolutely captivating and somehow freakin'
hilarious film. With the possible exception of Luis Guzman's character
(and occasional very minor characters), there is not a single "normal"
person in the whole endeavor.
Certainly not Adam Sandler's character. A lone male who grew up
with eight sisters who tormented him to no end (and still do—he
is repeatedly ordered to attend a specific party and not to "puss
out"). The sisters heap trauma after trauma upon him so endlessly
that he has absolutely no outlet to deal with it all, and the sisters
are frighteningly unaware that such casually horrifying torture
could cause any damage whatsoever. They don't understand why he
suddenly kicks and shatters a sliding glass door after they fondly
recall how they used to call him "gay boy" when he was
But into his life comes Emily Watson's character, who seems to
be able to see the endless layers of damage that have been slathered
onto him. And she actually seems to like him and his damage. She
doesn't want to try to "fix" him.
And then there's an actual plot involving collecting pudding for
frequent flier miles, phone sex operators sending thugs around to
beat money out of you, and a desperate attempt to go to Hawaii.
The sheer amount of psychological damage shown by Sandler is phenomenal.
You can't take your eyes away from his performance as he alternately
cowers and explodes. It is really a remarkable performance of a
remarkable character. Emily Watson's character, however, suffers
from a lack of development. Who is she? Why is she like the way
she is? We don't really learn that much about her, although it is
also a fascinating performance that hints that deep down there is
actually quite a lot to this character. I just wish it came to the
surface more, as in a frightful scene in which Adam Sandler confesses
that she thinks Emily Watson is so beautiful that he basically wants
to beat her up very badly—and Emily Watson finds this more
The cinematography is off the heezy-beezy. The film doesn't look
like a comedy. It looks like a high-art film, with brilliant lighting
and camera angles and movements. Like all P. T. Anderson films it
boasts a well thought out, haunting score and soundtrack.
You know, I'm making this film seem like a drama or a horror film
or something. It isn't. I laughed my ass off throughout a great
deal of it, and I honestly have no idea how P. T. Anderson and Adam
Sandler managed to make a film about such horrifying subject matter
be so absolutely drop-dead hilarious. This film has me in awe over
the very idea of what a film comedy can be.
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