Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

punch drunk love poster 2002 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Respect the movie's scope, cast, and visuals

Don't feel the movie pays off

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Punch-Drunk Love

Studio:  Revolution Studios

Genre(s):  Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s):  May 19, 2002 (Cannes)/November 1, 2002 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

punch drunk love date emily watson adam sandler

Are we both weird enough to make it?

Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) has issues.  He’s reclusive, suffers almost bipolar mood swings, and hounded by his sisters.  Barry’s world begins to both unravel and build when he finds a harmonium in the street, discovers a frequent fliers bonus in a Healthy Choice deal, and meets a woman named Lena Leonard (Emily Watson).  Unfortunately as Barry struggles with his own mental problems, a phone-sex line operator (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his girlfriend are out to shake Barry down…but Barry’s found a new power in love.

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Punch-Drunk Love is a dark dramatic comedy and followed Anderson’s Magnolia.  The film was released to critical praise and Paul Thomas Anderson won Best Director at Cannes (with the film being nominated for the Palme d’Or).  The film fared poorly at the box-office but over the years has gained a cult following.  The film received a remastered Criterion Collection release (Criterion #843).

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There’s always room for pudding!

I loved Magnolia, Boogie Nights, and Hard Eight and couldn’t wait to see more from Paul Thomas Anderson.  I saw Punch-Drunk Love in the theater and was rather disappointed.  Though I admire a lot of aspects of the movie, I found the movie just doesn’t seem to reach the lofty highs set by Anderson’s other films.

The plot is largely cerebral.  It doesn’t have a nice neat ending and things build and diminish with little payoff.  I went in kind of expecting this from Anderson’s previous outings, but I feel that there was even less control here.  It feels like a lot of things Anderson wanted to shoot and explore while wrapping it up as “it’s all about finding love”.

Adam Sandler is quite good.  This was his big leap to dramatic acting and he does largely get it.  Unfortunately due to the script I feel there are still a number of Adam Sandler moments like him running and yelling from his attackers…it doesn’t always help him legitimize himself.  Emily Watson is perfect.  She’s subdued and curious about the weird Sandler and a bit of a freak herself as it is revealed.  I like Mary Lynn Rajskub as the sister that Sandler is actually close to (the scene where she defends him to Lena is a great scene and shows she really cares).

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That’s that?

Once again, Paul Thomas Anderson nails the visuals of the film.  It is combined with strange sound editing (and a Popeye throwback with the use of “He Needs Me”…which I always approve of) that does give the movie the surreal aspect that is needed to make the story somewhat believable.  I cannot fault anything about Punch-Drunk Love looks.

Punch-Drunk Love was a disappointment, but more so in that I had really high expectations for it.  I really wanted to like it a lot and thought it was just ok.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t have respect for the film.  Paul Thomas Anderson followed Punch-Drunk Love with the far superior There Will Be Blood in 2007.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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