Thursday, 29 March 2007
PUNCH DRUNK LOVE
Punch Drunk Love (2001) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson
Guest review by Blair Stewart
What a profoundly weird movie experience this is, and what a thrill that P.T.A and Adam Sandler pulled this darkly lovely rabbit out of their hat on the general public. So this is what it felt like to be an American filmgoer in the unpredictable 70’s. I will always remember seeing this on opening night in a Vancouver megaplex in front of a packed crowd of Sandler fans and the horrified reaction as the end credits rolled with the Skittles tumbling out of everybody’s palms.
WHAT. THE HELL. WAS THAT?
Firstly, it is the very unconventional love story between virginal toilet plunger salesman Barry played by Adam Sandler with seething rage at the abuse he takes from his hectoring 7 sisters alongside the fact that he’s a virginal toilet plunger salesman and the mysterious red-dressed Lena played with saintly patience by Emily Watson as his romantic foil and likely savior. Secondly, it is Sandler and Anderson taking hammer and tongs to the caustic/sappy ‘Sandler’ persona of “Happy Gilmour’ and “Billy Madison” fame and to the entire ‘Romantic Comedy’ genre, adding art-house DNA of unpredictable violence and pathos to create this hybrid flower. Thirdly, it is an intense emotional experience for the viewer, its blinding florescent cinematography, disjointed soundtrack, tense acting and overall mood-tone enveloping you into Barry’s persona as he takes baby steps through self-inflicted danger towards the possibility of happiness. The film is blessed throughout with haunting beauty; a nighttime impromptu dance in the aisles of a grocery store, a sad close-up of a delicate character in peril that significantly raised my own heart rate to alarming levels, a silhouetted embrace that could be used as a visual definition of New Found Love.
Should Adam Sandler never veer down these odd side-roads again I will always admire him for the vulnerability and Travis Bickle-ish psychosis he displays in this role, with a supporting cast of Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman at his sleazy best and a superbly baffled Luis Guzman that assist his flowering as a performer. While Anderson will likely spend the remainder of his career making grand cinematic statements on par with “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”, this I consider to be his best work for its subversive ingenuity. Now that I’ve praised it its up to you to view it, the mutant Adam Sandler project, the One That Got Away from the Hollywood Focus Groups, the $25 Million Romantic Comedy from Mars. Enjoy?
PS-Check out Philip Seymour Hoffman’s incredible stunt for the ‘Mattress Man Commercial” available on the DVD special features:
Buy it here: Punch-Drunk Love (Two Disc Special Edition)