Punch-Drunk Love 2002 ★½

I don't believe Paul Thomas Anderson makes films to be enjoyed, more films to be Appreciated. Punch-Drunk Love is enormously dissonant for a love story - in its soundtrack, plot, and dialogue - and I found it hard to connect with. That being said, it's tremendously effective at building this all pervading awkwardness, and the scene where Barry goes to dinner with his sisters and extended family was really well judged. Also, I'd be curious to see Sandler doing more roles like this that don't involve him being a gurning, hyperactive cartoon, because he's weirdly compelling as a straight man.


  • This review is what the phrase "I hear what you're saying, but you're completely wrong" was invented for!

  • Agree to disagree, Kalorkoti! For what it's worth, I like There Will Be Blood a whole lot more (right up until the end), and am still yet to see Magnolia or Boogie Nights. But this hasn't exactly persuaded me I need to do so that quickly..

  • Grammar? What? It's 8am.


  • I have to agree with Eleni, I get how you got there, but I couldn't disagree more with the conclusion! You prompted me to write up my review though!

  • Hmm, that link didn't work for some reason, let's try this: letterboxd.com/jordanharper/film/punch-drunk-love/

  • I can't argue that it's unique, and on paper I should love it, but.. no. Also, the score flips between these long dissonant passages of noise, and almost cartoonish swells of strings - the juxtaposition of which just seems to undercut any real emotion/romance. I hate feeling like I'm being punished or mocked for feeling something real, and I felt like that throughout.

    Also, Eleni, justify yourself please. I'm curious!

  • I see it as a much more abstract film. The dissonant score reflects, or even gives us an insight into the inner dissonance (?) of Barry's psyche. I saw the score as a part of the character, another way of seeing the world through his eyes: the swells and discordance correspond with his emotions.

    I certainly don't think the score is there to mock the viewer or give an 'edge' to the central love story. It's there because it's part of trying to understand how the central character is disoriented and confused by the world around him.

  • Okay, here we go.

    Yes, it is an incredibly discordant, odd film in many ways. It's simultaneously deeply old-fashioned (boy meets girl, they fall in love and complete each other), and totally modern and experimental (the brightly lit banality of Barry's life, the abstract colour sections). These contradictions can confuse and frustrate our expectations. I felt like this when I first watched it.

    Living in Barry's skin - I agree with Jordan, this is what all of the elements of the film are encouraging us to to - is a painful experience. His every word and move is dissected by his army of sisters and he is completely unable to act even on his most basic feelings, except in frightening bursts of violent rage. He is a mess, the film makes us feel messy, and this in uncomfortable. But I don't think this should be mistaken for ironic distance - it's not the film that's distant from Barry, but Barry who is distant from himself.

    Until! Leena. I'm trying to think of another contemporary American film that believes so genuinely in love. Not as a cop out or conservatively tacked-on happy ending, but a real and deep need of it's main character. With Leena's Love Barry can at last act; he can get on a plane instead of just buying pudding, beat up the thugs instead of cowering in fear. There is no irony here, the swelling violins are real, believe in them!

  • "it's not the film that's distant from Barry, but Barry who is distant from himself" -- wonderful way of putting it Eleni, I like this a lot.

  • Eleni, you've said every I'd want to say and more! Perfectly argued. Please write more. I really want to go back and re-watch PDL now.

  • Aw, thanks Philip! Will just have to hope that Jez continues to provoke me with his silly opinions.

  • Don't push me, Kalorkoti.

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