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Punch Drunk Love (2002)

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson

Punch Drunk Love (2002)Well here’s one you didn’t expect – Adam Sandler in good film shocker and Paul Thomas Anderson in well under two hours film surprise…

Barry is a neurotic businessman involved in (among other things) the manufacture of occasionally shatterproof novelty plungers. His neurosis could stem from his seven sisters who still have a huge influence on his life – one going so far as to try and set him up with a girlfriend, Lena, at a party. Mind you, life is certainly odd for Barry – he witnesses unexpected car crashes, picks up a discarded harmonium lying in the middle of the road and has a fanatical obsession exploiting loopholes in a free air miles promotion. Will true love find Barry? Just when it seems likely he becomes embroiled in a violent cat and mouse game with the proprietor of a telephone sex line. Things can only go downhill…

Punch Drunk Love (2002)Sandler’s performance as Barry is a real eye-opener – from the wide-eyed innocence as he discovers the air-mile potential of chocolate pudding, to his sudden outbursts of extreme frustrated violence. These later outbursts take your breath away as he smashes a restaurant’s toilet room in desperation and impotence, vehemently denying his actions to the maitre de, who ejects him and his new beau. This action is performed with stupefyingly claustrophobic sound – a feature of the film that engulfs you into Barry’s world. Indeed, his earlier burst of violence at his sisters’ party is accompanied by an intimidating wall of petty background chatter.

Ultimately Punch Drunk Love is exactly what it says it is – a bizarre love story set in the numbing modern world seen through the eyes of its frustrated anti-hero. This is enforced not only with sound but also the occasionally avant-garde soundtrack, the use of long take and the bizarre pastel shaded blurs that punctuate the film. One of the best minor films of recent months.