84 of 94 people found the following review helpful
Everyone, no matter how damaged, deserves love.,
On Saturday, I saw one of the most obscure, bizarre, different and ultimately conventional and rewarding films, and I have to recommend it to all of you.
It's the Adam Sandler-Paul Thomas Anderson movie, PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE.
Usually, with Adam Sandler, I'm on the fence. I remember him from when he was on REMOTE CONTROL when I was 12. I remember him when he started on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, and I loved his skit there called THE DENISE SHOW, where a dumped, depressed guy uses a cable access program as an excuse to stalk his ex-girlfriend. P.T. Anderson, I noticed from interviews, remembered Sandler from THE DENISE SHOW, too, and made this movie with the complexities and sadness that character in mind.
All the rage (not range) that Sandler showed in films like THE WEDDING SINGER, which at times was smart and good, or THE WATERBOY, which at times was dumb and good, is on display in PUNCH-DRUNK, but Sandler's character, Barry Egan, is more awkward than goofy. He's shy, damaged, browbeaten. In his words, he "doesn't like himself very much sometimes."
In the role, Sandler's able to maintain his character's oddness, manic temper (complete with fits of violence) and essential goodness, generating sympathy and care even when he does things like call a phone-sex line or destroy a restaurant bathroom.
As I've watched more Paul Thomas Anderson films in an attempt to better understand them (for MAGNOLIA frequently left me baffled and confused), I've come to appreciate some recurring elements: twists of fate that inject magic into everyday life, characters that exist only to forgive and love the damaged characters and random, off-the-wall dialogue and plot twists.
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE has these. Its hokiness, for it is a somewhat-formula romantic comedy, is redeemed by these elements.
Lena Leonard, played by Emily Watson, is the character whose sole purpose in the film is to unconditionally love Barry Egan. The character isn't as clearly defined or quirky as Sandler's because she exists for a sole purpose, to save Egan from himself, to teach him how to hold relationships with others, to trust others, because she almost instinctively understands that he's been hurt a lot and hasn't really deserved it.
The arrival of Leonard in Barry's life coincides with the arrival, as well, of a harmonium on his doorstep. The harmonium, one of those air-organ type instruments, shows up by complete chance, and its arrival, strangely, initially frightens Barry. Yet, as he comes to accept it and learns how to play it, everything else in Barry's life comes into order.
I loved this movie so much that I wanted to give it a hug. It's not laugh-out-loud funny. It probably won't appeal to a lot of people. Some people may find it too off-the-wall. Others may just not get it.
But I embrace any film that understands its themes clearly, knows what it's trying to say and says just that. I don't even mind a happy ending if a film earns it.
Through accepting that goodness and magic does occur in the world and that the world isn't all hurt, Barry Egan is able to accept that there is goodness inside him and that he deserves love.
I thought that was pretty great.