|While fans of Paul Thomas Anderson might be wary viewers of Punch-Drunk Love, non-fans should steer wide and clear of this film. There are moments when the movie is entertaining. And there are other moments when it could be considered funny. But to avoid the horrific jarring and pinging soundtrack present during almost the entire running time of the film, one would have to press the mute button. Which would eliminate all the sound and also cause the comedy to evaporate. So therein lies a paradox. To enjoy the film, one must ignore the soundtrack. But ignoring the sound (and using the mute button) makes any joy one might receive from viewing this film completely evaporate. |
It's not particularly beautiful, nor it is inventively shot. So how is one to solve this dilemma? The solution lies in "just getting us to" the blaring music that sounds like it was composed for the enjoyment by prisoners of war. There are definite moments of hilarity in this film, but one has to be quite attentive to the picture in order to catch them. A few of the moments are hidden stealthily within dissertation-length speeches made on the phone or in conversation by Adam Sandler's poor bastard of a character, "Barry Egan."
This guy doesn't have a lot going for him, as he owns a business but doesn't seem to have a lot of success with it. And Barry also has six or seven of the most annoying sisters ever put together on a piece of celluloid. These women must have been handpicked for the amount of grief they would give viewers with their horrible whining voices and directionless monologues and yelling. As played by Adam Sandler, Barry isn't a character for which the audience will have a lot of respect. Even when he's in the act of standing up for himself, Barry is still a funny looking schlep in a bright blue suit that looks like it was taken freshly off the racks of a nearby movie from the 1970's.
Perhaps director Anderson borrowed the costume from his vastly superior effort, Boogie Nights. The genius in that film was that Anderson made a bunch of Los Angeles porn stars and directors seem sympathetic. It was easy to care about what happened to those poor people. But becoming emotionally involved in Punch-Drunk Love is much more difficult. Although Emily Watson plays her character well (she always does in her films), she's really a mystery that the audience never learns a lot about. While it was funny when Watson and Sandler's characters were whispering about tortuous deeds to one another while in bed, Watson's "Lena Leonard" comes out of nowhere and leaves from the same direction.
Perhaps it is that Anderson was much more concerned with showing Sandler's poor-bastard character talking on the telephone like a buffoon for minutes on end, than he was in exploring the relationships between the characters in the film. While the essence of Anderson's extended shot method is still present in the film, there is much less going on in each of those very long takes than in his previous films. The camera might stay trained on a specific actor for quite a few minutes, but the story hops around in circles instead of moving forward. And that idea can be applied to the rest of the film as well. At the beginning of the film, Adam Sandler's character is just weird. And he doesn't change at the end.
He still has a problem controlling his violent temper, and he still dresses horribly. Adam Sandler has proven before that he can pull off a dramatic role; just witness his performance in The Wedding Singer. Although that film was much more a comedy than a drama, Sandler's character was still more sincere than the one he plays in Punch-Drunk. In considering the larger picture, the peripheral characters in this film deserve a lot of the credit for any dramatic and comedic value this film has. Luis Guzman only has a few scenes, and he's usually silent in those scenes, but it doesn't matter. He's still hilarious. Perhaps itís his interaction with Sandler. The two play very well off one another, even though Sandler does most of the talking.
And Philip Seymour Hoffman, who seems to have told the costume and make-up department to make him look as strange as possible, makes you want to laugh out loud more than once in his precious few scenes. In this author's opinion, Hoffman was sorely underused. Although his performance as the Mormon furniture store owner/operator of a phone sex company is right on the mark, he might have done even better in the lead role. But juggling the casting aside, this film might have the most laughs for fans of these actors, and will probably be a hard pill to swallow for the casual viewer.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.