Film: Punch-Drunk Love

The cast/crew bit: written & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Adam Sandler & Emily Watson

The ten-word synopsis: Shakey but pleasant man experiences love, threat, disappointment and anger

Jack and Jill is a movie with stupidity so deeply engrained in it’s DNA that even if the Deoxyribonucleic acid could think itself, it wouldn’t work out that it had a double-helix structure. That’s My Boy is a film so painful to watch that the NHS had to begin employing expertsin diagnosing ‘Adam Sandler fever’- A condition that makes you want to bash yourself over the head repeatedly until A). you die or B). the film is over. Most patients claim A is preferable under the circumstances. Basically, if you hate Adam Sandler, you’re more than entitled to do so. However, before you go off on any rants about what a hateful human being he is, (As I for one certainly have done in past) you’re probably best watching Punch-Drunk Love, a movie so good you’ll almost forgive Sandler for his apocalyptically bad career.

The worst bit is, Sandler is actually really good in his. No longer doing stupid OTT voices whilst reading crass, witless lines with appalling delivery, Sandler instead gives a really under-played performance, as a quiet, shy, retiring man, the kind you can’t help but feel for. His body language and slight stutter are alarmingly affective in allowing us to warm to a man I normally find off-putting the moment I see his face. This is Sandlers’ Truman Show- the film where he shows he can do more than his given shtick, just as Carrey did when he left the big rubbery-face act behind. And while we’re still waiting for his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it’d be wrong not to cherish Sandlers’ performance as Barry Egan, a good, honest man. Things never quite go Barry’s way, and no matter how much people try to help him, he never finds himself in a position in which he’ll accept their help. It’s the story of a lonely man who slowly comes to accept the company of others.

Opposite him is Emily Watson as the woman who coaxes him out. She’s also terrific, and her contribution should not be lost amongst the plaudits given to Sandler and writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson’s script is slow, and purposeful, with constant random events happening, but never, ever will you question them. It’s remarkably watchable. Often, nothing is happening, and then very little will happen, then nothing will happen again, but it’s just so engaging. His direction has a sharpness about it- the panning of the shots, the editing, the little nuances of the individual characters… He’s a master of making a film plod along at whatever tempo he feels it should without it ever growing dull.

The plot isn’t substantial enough for it to deserve to impact on your watching of the movie, and you’re probably best off knowing nothing about the events of the film, and just enjoying them as they unfold. The film is essentially a collection of moments. It bleeds, fluently, from one to the next, with transitions so smooth you can’t help but want to stroke them. It doesn’t make all that much sense, but then that’s part of the charm. And this is a film brimming with charm.

I don’t want to linger on Sandler, because I’ve forgiven him for his career. I don’t want to linger on the plot, in case I spoil it. I don’t really want to say any more about this film other than it is up there amongst the greatest romcoms you shall ever see, and it is oh so worth seeing. Forget it’s an Adam Sandler film. Leave behind your inhibitions. You won’t regret it. It’s a film so loving, so charming, so well-crafted that it cancels out Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy, and all manner of other stupid, infantile tripe from the memory. It’s Sandler’s crowning glory.

8 harmoniums out of 10


1 thought on “Film: Punch-Drunk Love

  1. Pingback: EverBirdd’s Top 10 Films of the Year | EverBirdd

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