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  • Gareth Crook

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

I like Paul Thomas Anderson films, mostly. I hate Adam Sandler films, unequivocally. Even his latest ‘Uncut Gems’, although I kinda enjoyed, I also hated. This though, is supposed to be the exception. To cut to the chase, it is. I’m not sure it’s as much to do with Sandler as it is with PTA, who’s not afraid of the quirky and unusual... and this is both. Sandler plays Barry, a socially awkward hardware salesman. An only son with 7 sisters, big family, lots of pressure. Single and confused. I have to give him some credit, he captures Barry’s insecurities very well. You feel for Barry, he’s lonely, anxious, trying to do his best. His teasing sisters, Georgia from the phone sex service hassling him, Barry has a lot on his mind. Add to that the driving music high in the mix and scenes that build with the intensity of a runaway jackhammer and it gets pretty tense. I’m enjoying it, then Dean (Philip Seymour Hoffman) turns up and it goes from good to great. Just as things seem to be getting better for Barry when he meets Lena (Emily Watson) and goes on a date, Dean’s henchmen come to ruin him. Dean you see is behind the phone sex scam, “we know where you live”, “we’ll expose you” and Barry’s in a tailspin. Barry however has a plan to escape to Hawaii, with the help of some chocolate puddings and some extreme couponing. I know that sounds nuts, but Barry is a little. He’s frenetic, prone to punching walls, occasionally finds solace in an old harmonium he found out on the street and is enthralling to watch. As Barry’s confidence grows, so does his impulsiveness, this not only helps his love life, but fuels his desire to right the wrongs of Dean in true get the girl, kill the baddies style. I will still do my best to avoid Sandler movies, but this, I have to confess is rather magical.



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