Fall in love. So this is the story about an eccentric business owner named Barry (Adam Sandler). Love may be in the cards for him when a woman walks into his life (Emily Watson), but will he be able to find his happily ever after when he starts to become extorted by a phone sex operator? This is a movie that just goes to show that there is an exception to every rule. Adam Sandler is in my top 5 villain list of actors in Hollywood, if not top 3. Pixels? Lazy. Just Go with It? Garbage. He’s not untalented, he is just unmotivated in all of his career choices, and that is something I cannot support. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and with Punch-Drunk Love, he has a movie that I not only like, but one that I unabashedly adore.
The thing that is so wonderful about Punch-Drunk Love is that it is a comedy where a massive amount of attention is paid to the details. This is something that is very rare to see within the genre, because the audience that comes for the laughs is usually there for escapism, and they do not have the tendency to be the most critical of crowds. But this isn’t directed by your run-of-the-mill directors. No, this isn’t Dennis Dugan, this is auteur and critical darling Paul Thomas Anderson, who flat out knows how to craft a movie. How often do you see a comedy where the cinematography takes your breath away? When was the last time you can recall commenting on how memorable the score is in a comedy, and not in a Seinfeld kind of way? Punch-Drunk Love has every single filmmaking element firing on all cylinders, every piece to this complements the next in perfect harmony, and it’s my personal opinion that this is a masterstroke.
I’m still of the opinion that the real star of this is P.T. Anderson, but let me touch upon the story/acting element to this. This is not your conventional romance story, and you shouldn’t go in expecting that. It’s not ever made abundantly clear if the character Adam Sandler is portraying has Asperger’s Syndrome or autism, but neither would surprise me. Regardless, the message I take away from this is that there is somebody out there for everyone. I am very confident that Adam Sandler will never have another performance that beats this one here, and totally stealing the show is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who gives such a strong performance, you may misremember him for being present for more than three scenes. I wouldn’t say that this is for everybody, because if you can’t get past how unconventional the characters are, you may not be able to connect with it, but if you watch movies for the filmmaking, this is mandatory viewing.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002) *****
– Critic for Hire