“Punch-Drunk Love” (2002)

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I’ve never been a huge fan of Adam Sandler. I find a lot of his movies to be idiotic, and him to be about as funny as a Sylvia Plath novel. So when I had to watch P.T. Anderson’s 2002 film Punch-Drunk Love, I was slightly less than enthusiastic. I’m not a fan of a lot of melodramas’ and romantic comedies’. After viewing this film however, I’m glad any negative assumptions I had were wrong. All of my expectations were surpassed.

Sandler plays a small business owner named Barry. He’s socially awkward, constantly bullied by his over bearing siblings, and prone to fits of rage. I can honestly say, this is the best performance he’s ever given in a movie. A lot of us love to root for the underdog, and have similar struggle of our own on a daily basis. His ordeals might be a bit different than you and I though, from running a shoddy novelty business out of a warehouse, dealing with a vindictive phone sex company, and destroying public bathrooms while on dates.

The love story of the film is between him and a young woman named Lena, played by Emily Watson. Although I wouldn’t normally find myself saying this, the on-screen chemistry really works here. It’s a theme thats been played out countless times, it really works well with this film. The “girl next door” who sees the ugly ducking as the handsome prince. Sandler gives the impression of a vulnerable oaf, who needs a companion to break him out of his shell of isolation and awkwardness.

The particular reason I fell in love with this film, wasn’t the story, It was the cinematography and color. One fact that might have gotten lost on several viewers, is this film is a complete homage to the French new wave film movement of the 1970’s, More specifically, it’s a tribute to legendary French directer Jean-Luc Godard, and his 1961 film, A Woman Is A Woman. At times it felt like I was watching an old technicolor film, and not a 2000’s romantic comedy. Anderson’s eye for detail is quite impressive in this matter. Focussing on sharp contrasts in wardrobe, as well as low-key lighting to heighten the mood of a scene.

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Although an initial failure with audiences, I feel this film is grossly underrated. It not only shows that Adam Sandler can act, but that techniques used over 40 years ago, can still produce an entertaining film today. Give it a view for yourself, you might be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

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