punch drunk love

yet another film i kick myself for not seeing on the big screen! i should have known better. i did know better. but i was busy as hell when punch drunk love came out. i remember how the visuals really made magnolia, and swore i would only watch pt anderson films in the theatre.

what can be said about this one? it succeeded at firmly raising my blood pressure for 95 minutes. and i mean this as a compliment. adam sandler is viciously real as small-time entrepreneur barry egan. barry has seven older sisters and has serious personality problems. while he has immense confidence in some regards, he has profound anger management issues (was this character a dry-run for sandler’s later work with jack nicholson?). barry is so mentally screwed up from having so many sisters intrude on every aspect of his personal life that he doesn’t trust anyone. he is evasive and, ultimately, destructive.

it is always a good bet to have a comedian play a dark character. look at jim carey in cable guy (a film that was unecessarily slagged). comedians seem to know how to pull up all that vile stuff and put it to good use. they are introspective and thoughtful. at least the good ones seem to be. i’m really glad sandler was given a role worth his skill. it’s about time.

emily watson is wonderful as lena leonard, who is nearly as fucked up as barry. she too suffered at the intrusive hands of too many siblings. and she had to endure a name like lena leonard. no wonder she doesn’t have a problem with the disturbing pillow talk adam sandler uses. she’s just as likely to dish it out herself, her capacity for inter-personal relationships also slightly damaged.

rounding out the cast are luis guzmán and pt anderson regular philip seymour hoffman. guzmán does a nice job as barry’s lackey, adding some wonderful naive-style humour. seymour hoffman, on the other hand, delivers a typically great performance as a total creep who drives the plot of the film along.

the first thing i thought after watching this was how smart it was for anderson to make a break from his ensemble casts and get back into the heads of a few select characters as he did with hard eight. i think punch drunk love displays how anderson has finely honed his skills over the course of the past several films. anderson regulars came through again: jon brion’s off-kilter score and robert elswit’s typically solid cinematography helped make this film carry the right tone for its subject matter. was it jeremy blake that did those tasty colour fields that transitioned between scenes? my oh my those were delicious.

i’m excited as hell to see what troubled characters under tremendous strain he comes up with next. anderson is one of the few directors who could even make me write a sentence like that.