Punch Drunk Love
- Reviewed by: David Trier
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Current Rating 7.26/10 | 53 Votes
Small-business owner Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) is a lonely manic-depressive. Desperate to talk to someone, he decides to call an adult sex line. But when the company tries to blackmail him for cash, he becomes the target of a group of thugs. This all happens at the same time he finds himself starting a romance with a kind and interesting girl one of his seven sisters works with (Emily Watson). Egan must learn to be honest and stand up for himself if he wants to attain happiness.
The synopsis seems short because to try and describe this film's many elements would be like writing the script all over again. Suffice it to say that its expert direction and surprising performances make it a movie full of comedy, sensitivity, tension and inspiration all at once. Barry Egan certainly has the element of mental retardation that most of Sandler's characters do, but we can actually buy Barry Egan as a real person. Sandler's performance is patient and careful, while Anderson's script and direction make him likeable despite his many flaws. Not the traditional Hollywood babe, it's unusual that Emily Watson is so frequently cast as the horny femme (Red Dragon, Hillary and Jackie, arguably Breaking the Waves), but she does it very well. Always a treat, Phillip Seymour Hoffman delivers a believable slimeball foe. Luis Guzman, another asset to any film, is underused but natural as expected.
Anderson directs Punch-Drunk Love like an art film, with all sorts of unnecessary but entertaining set pieces. This generally works to set the mood of the film, but some may leave the theater wondering, what about the...? Despite it needing to be categorized as a romantic comedy, most of the film is very tense and suspenseful - something for everyone. Where the film succeeds the most, is when it refrains from humiliating its main character every time it gets a chance. Most romantic comedies like to kick the lead when he's down, often making him too pathetic in our eyes to be worthy of the love we know he'll inevitably get.
Punch-Drunk Love is a tight, evenly paced, understandable and still complicated film. I haven't gone soft. I promise.
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