Punch-Drunk Love

Punch-Drunk Love ★★★★★

I'd like to let you in on a little secret. This is my first Paul Thomas Anderson film.

Can somebody nip round to PTAbro's place and revive him please? Thanks.

I just want it made clear that nothing sinister has been going on and that I've not been deliberately avoiding his films or anything because that really isn't the case. I've got a couple of his films on DVD but I just never got round to watching them. Just one of those stupid holes in my filmwatching that I only actually started to repair tonight because I noticed Punch-Drunk Love on Netflix as I was about to start my nightly hour long search for something to watch.

My presumption when approaching a review of this film is that everything that could be said about Adam Sandler's performance has already been said. I also presume that many people have covered just how, after producing a performance of this quality, Sandler could be just several years later back to the same old useless comedy shit that led to his casting in this producing raised eyebrows right across the filmwatching world?

I really can't stand the guy and I've only seen a couple of his films. That's how little of him I could take, so perhaps taking on Punch-Drunk Love as my first Anderson film was a really big step to take. Normally you would start off with something slightly more likely to really impress you - I always thought I would start off with Boogie Nights and work my way on from there.

However, I think I knew this was going to impress me from about five minutes in and from there on it never really looked as though the outcome was going to go any other way. Starting off as an oddball comedy and then turning all of a sudden into one of the sweetest and more realistically romantic films that I have ever seen, this is a film that is as instantly brilliant as it is completely engaging.

What I loved most about it outside of the obvious qualities of the central romance between Sandler and the beautiful and brilliant Emily Watson was what was happening on the peripheries. Luis Guzman, one of my favourite character actors, is a sublime touch of a character. In some ways he's just, sort of, there. Seemingly not doing a great deal and I always seemed on the verge of expecting him to do or say something about Sandler's strange behaviour traits.

But he never does that. He is actually just THERE. At the same time, however, his support of Sandler and his refusal to really question what is going on and instead just focusing on helping him was a lovely background to what is going on in the foreground. Anderson never seems to be grabbed by a desperate need to explain to us how all his characters are feeling towards Sandler. Not everything needs explaining.

In fact, he doesn't explain a thing in this film. He lets us see all that we really need to see and to experience a very lovely love story between two people that happens so naturally but yet possesses so few traits that most people would regard as 'natural' in a romance. We don't actually need to know anything else - I think the point he is making is that things can be allowed to happen in films without justification needing to be presented for everything.

He backs himself as a storyteller and a filmmaker to make sure that the core of this film is so strong that we don't get frustrated by not knowing if Sandler's seven sisters understand his condition - a condition that we never have spelt out to us in the first place. As bold as it is, Anderson succeeds on almost every level with what he manages here.

I enjoyed Sandler being a character that acts like Anderson quite possibly thinks we want him to act, but not in the usual movie hero way. The phone call he puts through from Hawaii to his sister asking for Watson's number sums up pretty much exactly the thoughts that were going through my head - just give him the number and stop pissing around. I want to see these two together, don't fuck this up for him. The level of the frustration in his outburst is often what we have running through our heads in such scenes in films, but rarely is it actually verbalised on the screen so fluidly and directly.

Similarly, the way Sandler deals with Philip Seymour Hoffman and his ropey phone sex scam is absolutely fantastic. Again, I would have run like an absolute tit to get away from his goons as far away and as fast as I can, but the whole ongoing storyline is so well done and so beautifully climaxed that by this point I was in no doubt at all that Anderson has created something quite exceptional here.

The quality of the performances of Sandler and Watson really cannot be understated. From Watson you kind of expect this sort of thing - she is such an extraordinarily talented actress. I did wonder if even she had it in her abilities to outdo her stunning performance in The Proposition but you should never doubt the abilities of an actress such as herself to be able to constantly amaze. I loved her in this. A more succinct and academic appraisal of her work here is probably more appropriate or deserved but sometimes a great piece of work doesn't need to be dissected to see why it was so good.

The same can be said of Sandler as well. If you can have such a thing as a genius piece of casting then this as got to be at least as close as you could ever get to it. It's the cinematic equivalent of when Manchester United bought Eric Cantona. On paper it looks like sheer madness - but very quickly you realise that these two were actually meant to be together. Sandler will never better this. Maybe he was right to not even bother trying and do stuff like Jack And Jill instead.

It's safe to say that if I had done what I usually do and sat here tonight mulling over endless bookmarks and links to films that I want to watch that I would not have picked anything to watch that was as delightful as Punch-Drunk Love. Some things just happen for a reason.

🇵🇱 Steve G liked these reviews