Punch-Drunk Love
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
punch-drunk love Writer-director PT Anderson travels a long way from the emotional epics Magnolia and Boogie Nights for this small and deeply dippy romantic comedy. But his trademarks are here: a lush and involving production style combined with a story in which quite literally anything can happen. Barry (Sandler) is a quirky and detail-obsessed L.A. guy who owns his own novelty plunger business and scans the papers for special offers he can exploit (the film sprang from a news story about a guy who won more than 1 million frequent flier miles through a technicality). He seems like a magnet for all sorts of strange happenings, as well as a writhing mass of neuroses, which is hardly surprising since he has seven sisters! Then one of his sisters (Rajskub) sets him up with a friend, Lena (Watson), and for the first time feels he's met his match. Although true to form, this is also the moment a phone sex impresario (Hoffman) decides to take him for all he's got. Bad idea.

Subtle and more than a little offbeat, this is the kind of movie the Farrellys might make if they (a) made intelligent films and (b) weren't obsessed with gross-out humour. The comedy here is just as outrageous, catching us completely off guard and sending us into spasms of laughter. But instead of coming from the toilet, it's all based on the unexpected and absurd ... and it appeals to our brains just as much as our guts. The film is also deceptively simple, weaving its various strands into a singular narrative and revealing the characters through their actions, not what they say. This draws us in completely, and makes the film thoroughly engaging and entertaining, even though it violates most of Hollywood's well-worn rules about movie rom-coms. Sandler is very good in a role that requires a lot more oomph than his usual vehicle, although he never really gets beneath Barry's nervy exterior. Watson and Hoffman are always good, and they take their characters in very intriguing directions here. And Anderson's direction is colourful and kinetic, never giving away too much and keeping us utterly spellbound by the inexplicable way Barry's mind works!

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.Nov.02 lff

dir-scr Paul Thomas Anderson
with Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Lisa Spector, Julie Hermelin, Karen Hermelin, Hazel Mailloux, Nicole Gelbard, Mia Weinberg, Rico Bueno
release US 11.Oct.02; UK 7.Feb.03
NewLine
02/US 1h34

How does his mind work. Lena wonders about Barry (Watson and Sandler)...

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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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