Punch-Drunk Love will annoy many people. It won’t be anything to do with the story, which is solid and has some great little aspects to it. It won’t be the characters, which are bizarre but likable and keep you engaged. It will be the actors. More specifically one actor – Adam Sandler.
This isn’t for the usual reason you’d expect. Sandler isn’t playing the usual type of character he seems to have fallen-back into playing. The man-child, stupid but lovable goof that he has cruised through many movies playing is not the character he plays here. Instead he plays a role which feels very against-type.
Sandler’s character is a neurotic loner, feeling socially awkward and chronically alone throughout the film. He starts the movie trying to get out of a social family event and then audiences watch as his life begins to spiral out-of-control which for this type of character feels unusual. The annoying aspect is that Sandler is brilliant.
This feels like the career path he could have gone down. There isn’t any uncontrolled shouting, he doesn’t over-emphasise a silly voice or lisp and he feels very “normal.” It works so well because other elements of the movie are bizarre.
Punch-Drunk Love is written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson so it was always going to have a different feel to it. The direction is very good, with shots often off-center or highlighting aspects of the screen you wouldn’t expect. The story isn’t straight-forward either, which you’d expect from Anderson, with a unique musical instrument, a phone-sex line and Hawaii playing different roles in the story.
You’d be forgiven for watching the end credits slightly confused. There are parts of the film that feel wholly random and pass by with little to no explanation. Other sections of the film are very cool, with Adam Sandler dispatching goons with a crowbar or confronting an always great Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
What you couldn’t accuse the movie of being is generic. It is branded as a romantic-comedy but while moments are funny and there is a love story at it’s heart, this is not Bridget Jones’ Diary or Four Weddings and a Funeral. You could argue it is more of a drama, slightly absurd in places, which may put people off.
You’ll find yourself watching for Sandler though. His performance is captivating, not just because it feels so unusual for the actor, but because he is likable man that you want to see do well. His interactions, as awkward and slightly bizarre as they are, often capture what a lot of people feel or want to say and do, which helps you empathise.
Overall, Punch-Drunk Love is a good film, with an unusual plot, some weird moments but strangest of all a good performance from Adam Sandler. Sandler is the star here and shows a different sort of performance, one that he should be concentrating on more than the goofy characters he plays today.
Rating – 4
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