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Punch-Drunk Love | Review

Reinventing the Adam

Sandler shines in “colorful” comedy.

Caution: If you enjoyed the Billy Madisons, Happy Gilmours and the Little Nickys then stay away from this picture! SNL-famed comedian Adam Sandler plays a persona which is technically not that far off from the loud freaks, neurotics and jock friendly characters which he has acted in his entire filmography, but in this film he offers up a diverse quality of acting range that impeccably attains the mark of a P.T Anderson film character. So what does a filmmaker do after the box office flop? He chops the film’s run time by half, takes an unlikely A-list actor to top line his type of picture, casts a couple Anderson film regulars and throws a curveball at the genre of the “romantic comedy”. This is the type of film that you will either love or hate-some will marvel at this Anderson’s unconventional and artist talents as a filmmaker whereas the rest will just question the film’s bright moments as bizarre- “I don’t get this movie” complaints. This doesn’t mean that I could figure out his use of a color bar scheme-but then again I found myself laughing out loud to more than just one of the film’s ironic moments.

Sandler plays a man named Barry Egan-an entrepreneur dressed in a smurf colored suit who is still trying to find a place in this world and his seven sisters don’t necessarily help in the damage control part of his life. The guy who gets picked on one too many times in his life gets the energy to combat the split personality part of his brain when a woman played by Emily Watson (Red Dragon) literally walks into his life. In the narrative space of half a week not only are we seduced by his flourishing love but we are also witness to a major boost in self-confidence which leads him on a path of being the unlikeliest of heroes-combating the foes who have done him wrong and fighting off the esteem-crushers of teasing nicknames such as “gay boy”.

The magic of this film and like Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Magnolia is the attention to detail-in the character, the plot, the mise-en-scene and the visuals. I’m not sure what it is about actors Luis Guzman (Welcome to Collinwood) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Red Dragon) in Anderson’s films-but I it is a true joy to see them-I can’t seem to not get enough of them-which also ends up being the case with the runtime of the entire film I wanted more than just the 90 minutes. The subplots of a true aero-miles chocolate pudding redemption (a while back, I actually saw a feature on a family man who got a trip around the world) and the phone sex scam are fun companion pieces to the subtle unconventional love story. P.T.A even goes as far as giving an imaginative life to the props themselves-with ripped telephone cords, pianos-or the item which is also referred to as “not being a piano”, stock-piles of chocolate pudding and the “unbreakable” casino motif plungers. As always the cinematography in terms of the camera shots and the camera angles and how he frames each sequence makes it visually appealing for the viewer. I also found his use of long takes is particularly effect in bringing the audience closer to the Sandler’s character-giving us a more descriptive portrait of his phobic–like nature and frame of mind. Another note on the attention to detail-is how Anderson artistically utilizes the foreground and background to its potential-one sequence captures Sandler in the foreground tinkering around with a found piano and the background is slightly filled up as we witness Guzman’s character whacking the plungers on the desk.

As I mentioned before this film is not for all taste buds but if you are looking for something different rather than the same generic crap that is churned out every weekend then go check this fine film out-but then again I’ve watched Magnolia a total of 22 times. As always, I eagerly await Anderson’s next project.

Rating 4 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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