Punch-Drunk Love

Punch-Drunk Love ★★★½

Included In Lists:
Portraits and Landscapes: Ranking Paul Thomas Anderson
Strong Performances - Adam Sandler
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Essentials -#62

Review In A Nutshell:

Punch-Drunk Love is Paul Thomas Anderson’s most disconnected film as I sat through it, unable to decide which angle to tackle it, nor does it show the audience on how it should be seen, therefore making the entire experience of finding the truth or heart behind its story and characters. Inability to comprehend the intentions of a film is always the ones that are difficult to review as you are left with very little explore. The film takes on an odd, slightly ambiguous, approach to its storytelling and musical score, painting the characters in such an entrancing way that it is hard to make out the essence that drives it, but knowing Paul Thomas Anderson and judging from the way he views his subject, there is something deep to explore, at least from an emotional level.

Punch-Drunk Love is like any other Paul Thomas Anderson film, it requires to be seen at least twice, the director’s art-house approach is something that requires to be planted on our minds, first viewing, then allow time to highlight its ideas and the overall experience, which becomes integral for the subsequent viewing as by then we have gained some understanding of what we are in for and the journey of its characters; this stops me from contemplating on the outcome and transformation, but rather on the intricate details that would shape them towards their prognostic state, the essence.

Unlike the films that came before Punch-Drunk Love, it takes an overall intimate approach, a transitional turn for the director who now seems to be more concerned about creating portraits rather than landscapes. This approach is formidable as it allows him to become more ambitious on a micro level, one that requires audiences to find meaning behind the subtleties, rather than visible aesthetic like Boogie Nights. A blend of the two styles would ultimately come together in his next film, There Will Be Blood.

Despite my inability to connect with the film’s ideas and motivations, I was never uninterested on what was shown to me on screen. Anderson’s take on Adam Sandler was a unique one; an approach that embraces his trademark anger and sentimentality, and bringing it all down to a level of deep complexity and thoughtfulness. When two figures with their own distinctive style are working together, one must succumb to the vision of another, as compromise would create further conflict and the overall product would be left as erratic and uncomfortable. In Punch-Drunk Love, we see Sandler letting go of his ego and be confidently guided under Anderson’s instruction, and through that we see aspects of Sandler that are commonly buried beneath his regular work; loneliness, pitifulness, sorrow, and regret, all coming together in their most concentrated forms, breaking him down beyond our expectations and see him for what truly is, a broken man.

I would love to go further and dissect the film all the way to its roots, but its overall approach makes that a difficult task, at least under first impression. It is definite that I have plans on seeing this film in the future, but to say when, that I cannot answer. Is this Paul Thomas Anderson’s best film? For now it is hard to say, but if there is something to be certain about in this film, it would be that this is Sandler’s magnum opus.

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