Posted by: ckckred | April 16, 2013

Punch-Drunk Love

Adam Sandler and Emily Watson star in Paul Thomas Anderson's comic drama

Adam Sandler and Emily Watson star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s comic drama

When director Paul Thomas Anderson announced he intended to make a film with Adam Sandler, the film world thought he had gone insane.  How could a filmmaker as talented as Anderson, who has treated all of his subjects, even the adult picture industry, in his films with care and respect, work with the actor who is the king of crudity and immaturity?  This was my thought before seeing Punch-Drunk Love, but after watching it, I knew what Anderson’s intentions were for the movie.  The director of Magnolia and Boogie Nights knows better than almost anyone how to make a brilliant character study, and with Punch-Drunk Love, he further proves this claim.  Punch-Drunk Love is as masterfully made as Anderson’s other films, and it’s a superb picture.

Sandler stars in the film as Barry Egan, an executive of a company that sells plungers.  Despite his title, Barry isn’t a wealthy man and he’s trapped in his own world of loneliness and grief.  Barry has seven sisters, all of whom constantly mock him and try to control and manipulate his life, criticizing every part of it.  Barry tries to hide his feelings from others, but he can’t always do so.  At a family dinner, he explodes with rage and breaks a glass window.

Barry is an Adam Sandler character, but Punch-Drunk Love is not an Adam Sandler movie.  I’m not a fan of Sandler; I dislike his movies not just because of his blatant product placement, mean spiritedness, and lazy humor, but also because of the one dimensionality of his characters.  The roles Sandler typically plays are one-note jokes, adding nothing but vulgar punch lines and excessive slapstick humor.  Paul Thomas Anderson must have noticed this, and in Punch-Drunk Love fixes the flaws of Sandler’s characters.  Barry shares elements of past Sandler roles like in Billy Madison or Mr. Deeds but Barry has more emotional depth.  Not only is he a more likeable character, but it more relatable for viewers, just like Frank T. J. Mackey in Magnolia or Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights.

Barry’s life soon turns when he meets Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), a woman he falls in love with.  The two go to a diner where Barry tries to hide his inner persona, but in a fit of rage tears up a bathroom.  Barry’s inner struggle with himself, as well as a conflict with a phone sex number, threatens his relationship with Lena.

What makes Punch-Drunk Love such an extraordinary film is Sandler himself.  After watching this movie, I couldn’t believe this is the same man who starred in Happy Gilmore and Grown Ups. Sandler is committed in his performance, hitting the all the right emotional notes.  He can make viewers laugh in one scene and make them cry in another.  Anderson always brings out the best performances of actors and in Punch-Drunk Love this is clearly evident.

Perhaps Punch-Drunk Love could be noted as a transition for Paul Thomas Anderson.  While Punch-Drunk Love shares traits of Anderson’s earlier movies, like the emotional range of Magnolia and Boogie Nights, it focuses on one character and his world rather than the expansive universes in those two movies mentioned.  In fact, the style of Punch-Drunk Love, with its hypnotic pacing and beating score, bears a closer resemblance to Anderson’s most recent movies, There Will Be Blood and The Master.  But while Punch-Drunk Love is a smaller picture than Anderson’s other ones, it is no less impressive.  Anderson makes use of his sweeping camera angles and utilizes shots that live up to the director’s name.  He won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002, which was well deserved.

Punch-Drunk Love is a great film, impressing on the levels of visuals, storytelling, and acting.  While I would not put it in the same league of mastery as Magnolia or There Will Be Blood, Punch-Drunk Love is further evidence why Anderson is the best director of his generation.


  1. Been meaning to watch this. Good work as ever.

    • Thanks! I highly recommend this. PTA is one of my favorite directors.

  2. I have always been “hot and cold” with Sandler and his films. This sounds interesting though and it might be worth a look just to see him outside of his comfort zone. Great review mate!

    • Thanks! I’m not a Sandler fan myself, but he was actually pretty great in the movie. I’m a huge fan of director PTA and he really manages to get a good performance out of Sandler.

      • Anderson does “rock” with his films! If anyone could coax a good performance out of Sandler it would be him!

  3. Great review. And a great movie that needs to be seen by more people. For me, it’s actually PTA’s most perfect movie – maybe not his best but it’s the one that works most completely in what it’s trying to achieve: 90 mins of insane, messed-up love story.

    • Thanks! I like a few of his other movies more, but this is a great film. PTA really knows how to make a gripping story.

      • I agree. I’d place Magnolia and TWBB above this one – but they are both also a lot more flawed than PDL. I guess that’s what I mean when I say ‘perfect’.

  4. Hmm dislike sandler so didn’t even consider this movie even though I love Anderson but might give it a shot now..

    • I’m not a Sandler fan as well but Paul Thomas Anderson manages to get a great performance out of him. Thanks for commenting.

  5. One of Sandlers finest hours 🙂

    • Thanks! I think it’s his finest.

  6. This is a movie I’ve heard so much about but still haven’t seen. I guess it’s having Adam Sandler’s name attached that instantly causes me to push it back. I need to get over that and finally see it.

    • I was originally hesitant about seeing this one because of Sandler as well, but PTA gets a great performance out of him. I highly recommend it. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Such a lovely movie, and that’s all thanks to Sandler. Anytime Sandler makes a shitty movie (which is about once or twice a year, if we’re lucky), I always back him up because I know this performance will always stand somewhere in his past. Good review.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I’ve often criticized Sandler but this reminds me that if he tries, he can give a great performance.

  8. I agree, this is a great film and it’s amazing how few people have actually seen it. Sandler is fantastic as you say; I don’t understand why he hasn’t gone for more parts like this.

    • I think Sandler’s name on the movie might have hurt it, but it’s easily his best role. I wish he would try films like this instead of all those comedies he typically makes. Thanks for commenting.

      • Me too, he knows what he is capable of which makes it even worse!

  9. I agree with Tyson for once, Sandler’s best film for sure.

    • I agree as well. Wish Sandler would do more movies like this instead of his comedies. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Haven’t seen this yet but I know people say it’s Sandler’s best role so naturally I’m curious.

    • I highly recommend it. I’m not a fan of Sandler but he is actually pretty great here. Thanks for commenting.

  11. Another one I need to see. Great review, it sounds really good. I’ll try to check it out soon.

    • Thanks! I highly recommend it.

  12. […] 5. Punch-Drunk Love […]

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