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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Punch-Drunk Love Review

Punch-Drunk Love
2002, 95 minutes, Rated R

Starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Punch-Drunk Love is a wonderful film from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights).  It is a quirky, strange, and magical romantic dramedy (comedy/drama) about Barry Egan (Sandler) who is verbally abused by his sisters and therefore is left without any social skills or social life.  This all changes when beautiful Lena (Watson) comes along.  This film has many strengths, but the one that shows more than any is Sandler's performance.  Normally, Sandler goes for lowbrow comedies that teenagers love to watch, but, in this one, he abandons all of that for a performance that will move you and one where he embodies his character.  Sandler (as someone I know pointed out) is more controlled in this film and therefore cannot do antics that he does in other films.  Also, the film rests on his performance and I believe he knew that if he did not succeed, the film would not either.
Paul Thomas Anderson's direction is also one of the greatest strengths of the film.  He keeps Sandler focused and the shot selections relatively simple, but moves his camera in a way that gives the film fluidity.  There are no rough cuts or shots.  Also, the shots that Anderson chooses are all very beautiful in the way of framing and lighting.  He gives off the air of a very mature filmmaker, not a 32-year-old man.  There are also many interludes that were not made by Anderson that are gorgeous.  They are out-of-focus shots of colors that dance around the screen.
I think the most marvelous aspect of the film overall is the sense of joy that it gives the viewer.  The joy is due to the wonderfully quirky romance story at the film's center and the strange originality that this film has that most modern romance films lack.  I would highly recommend Punch-Drunk Love to anyone looking for a different film that will make them feel good.  It is definitely one of the best films I've seen to date and is also a favorite of director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and director Judd Apatow (Knocked Up).

-Joshua Handler

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