Adam Sandler has never been better than 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. He was honored for his worked in this film in 2003 by being nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. Yes, he’s been funnier, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, even The Wedding Singer had it’s moments, however Punch-Drunk Love is Adam Sandler working as a true dramatic actor, and also lovable when it’s time for him to get the girl. I had seen Punch-Drunk Love a few years ago, but noticed that I had only given it a Netflix rating of 2 Stars, although I thought I remembered liking it more than that. So with all of this The Master hype going on, I’ve been in a P.T. Anderson mood and thought I would give Punch-Drunk love another shot.
The film also stars Emily Watson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sandler plays Barry, a man with social, psychological issues that are too complex to get into here. He describes them a few times throughout the movie and it’s interesting because I’m sure plenty of people watching that will be able to relate to what Barry is going through at times, even though he does go over the top in a few instances. Emily Watson plays a woman that one of Barry’s over-bearing sisters tries to set him up with and wouldn’t you know it, they have a connection.
While watching it for a second time, I realized that this movie is deep, it’s got a lot of moving pieces and many scenes are complex. Just take a look at how much conflict is going on in nearly every scene. In some cases, there could be two or three things that Barry is conflicted with all in the same two minute scene. Especially the scenes that take place at his office, it seems like the phone is always ringing or something is crashing, that’s a great tip for future screenwriters: conflict in every scene. Something needs to go wrong, there needs to be an argument, the phone needs to be ringing, something that keeps the audience in Barry’s mindset of, “What else can go wrong in my life?” Take a look at when he’s talking to potential customers, every five seconds one of his sisters calls him to confirm that he’s going to their party that night. Then he tries to show off his new plunger that is indestructible and promptly breaks right in front of them. “That’s the old model, sorry, that’s embarrassing.” Not only is the scene conflicting and we relate to Barry’s frustration, but we also learn things in that scene. We learn what the business is, we learn how many sisters he has, and that they all think of him as a second rate individual to some degree. Many people will look past this scene, but that is terrific screenwriting and why P.T. Anderson is one of the best young film makers working today.
The down fall of the movie is the B story, the whole plot line of Barry and the call girl service just seemed tacked on as something that was there as filler and to add depth to the movie. I understand, the point of it. You need constant conflict, something always hanging over his head, but for some reason it just didn’t work for me.
I liked this movie as a whole, and definitely recommend it, however, P.T. Anderson has better work out there. However, Sandler is great and it’s disappointing he hasn’t gone back to these types of roles.
Punch-Drunk Love is currently instantly streaming on Netflix.