Sunday, March 18, 2018

Punch Drunk Love

Movie Name: Punch Drunk Love
Year of Release: 2002
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Lisa Spector, Robert Smigel, Nicole Gelbard, Mia Weinberg
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9
Watch it on Amazon

After the phenomenal "Magnolia", director Paul Thomas Anderson went in a somewhat different direction with his new feature, the romantic comedy "Punch Drunk Love", which premiered at the Cannes film festival of 2002, where it ended up winning the award for best director. The film focuses on the story of Barry Egan, who has his own business in the San Fernando Valley in California, and who has an atypical family life - he has seven overbearing sisters, who ridicule him at every occasion they can. Barry leads a very solitary life, and one of his sisters tries to set him up with the beautiful and pragmatic Lena, to whom Barry is instantly drawn to. Trying to cope with his loneliness, Barry reaches out to a sex hot line, which gets him in some hot water with that corrupt service that actually tries to blackmail their callers. Barry and Lena nonetheless meet and start developing a relationship, up until the moment the blackmailers catch up with them both, upon which Barry reacts in a way that surprises everyone.
Paul Thomas Anderson is a brilliant film maker, and "Punch Drunk Love" is a perfect example of that. The film uses the premise of the romantic comedy, where the hero meets his love, but has to go through some hardship in order to vanquish her love. It's a classic premise, one that Paul Thomas Anderson turns on its head, allowing for surreal elements to appear, making the film glide almost like a musical (witness the scenes between Adam Sandler and Emily Watson in Hawaii). The central characters are also on a class of their own, with Barry being a person filled with issues in regards to his loneliness and capacity to relate to others, whereas Lena is a divorcee with her own emotional baggage (yet a lot more resolved and mature than your typical heroine). The visual interludes from artist Jeremy Blake are beautiful, as is the case of the wonderful score of Jon Brion and the cinematography of Robert Elswit. The cast is uniformly excellent, with Adam Sandler, Emily Watson and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman creating indelible characters. A fantastic film from a tremendously talented film maker.