Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Punch Drunk Love stars Adam Sandler and Emily Watson in this artsy love film. The movie has Anderson’s visual flair anchored by his often off-beat characters moving the story along in unconventional ways. Sandler’s character is painfully awkward while still making you root for him, sometimes reluctantly. Watson is awkward as well in a way that compliments Sandler nicely.
The story centers around Barry Egan (Sandler) who has issues with shyness and fits of rage which makes an interesting counter-balanace throughout the movie. Along his journey through every day life, he decides to call a phone sex line more for companionship and less-so sex. Unfortunately his call backfires as the phone sex line turns out to be a direct line to some con artists who come after Egan just as he meets a woman who wants to actually date him. Violence escalates as Egan and the con artists clash while he rises to protect himself and his loved ones.
Sandler turns in a pretty intriguing performance. He’s similar to some of his awkward comedic characters sans the comedy. Kind of like a slightly smarter Waterboy but without the accent and silly humor. He’s a bit darker and even can make the audience feel a bit uncomfortable when he’s in freak out mode. Emily Watson is quite good in her role as well convincingly playing the slightly less weird love interest.
Anderson does great work directing and writing. He’s created an intriguing story complimented by an entertaining visual presentation. The wide shots breathe nicely while the tense moments ratchet up at the right times. There are some interesting transitions blending the seques in an arthouse way that keeps things popping off the screen. My only complaint is that while the music nicely accents certain scenes, there are times it overpowers others and becomes a little distracting.
If you’re in the mood for an avant-garde kind of love story, take a look at Punch Drunk Love.
reviewed by Sean McKnight