Punch-Drunk Love movie review, DVD, and more
Punch-Drunk Love

Punch-Drunk Love
Adam Sandler, Emily Watson
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Rated R for strong language, including a scene of sexual dialogue

***1/2 out of 4 Stars, Movie Grade: A-

Theatrical Release: November 1, 2002

Running time: 95 minutes

by Kevin Lang

I was not quite sure what to expect when I entered the theater to see "Punch-Drunk Love." Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights," 1997), and starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson, "Punch-Drunk Love" was not nearly as strange as the previews made it look. Or maybe it was just the way that I was looking at the previews. Regardless, "Punch-Drunk Love" was an enjoyable film with an unexpectedly strong performance by Adam Sandler in his first more dramatic role. This is not to say that there wasn't humor. It was just subtler, and it arose naturally as a result of the story and its characters.

Adam Sandler played Barry Egan, a secluded man with seven sisters who ran a small company that made plastic tubes. It was never made clear what the tubes were for exactly, but they looked like laboratory pipettes.

In the opening scene Barry watched a van drop a harmonium (which looks like a small piano) off in the street in front of his business. This seemed strange, and I feared that my expectations from the preview were going to come true. However, after Barry took the harmonium from the street and the movie went on, it became clear to me that the harmonium represented the potential for happiness in Barry's life, and what his life could be if he stepped forward and decided to live it. This potential for happiness arrived in the form of his sister's friend, Lena, who asked the shy and secluded Barry to go out on a date. Barry said yes, and we watched an enjoyable romance unfold as Barry struggled to accept his newfound happiness, while trying to leave his past behind him. It was a past that included verbal abuse from his sisters who still enjoyed making fun of him.

At first, Barry looked with a certain uneasiness at the harmonium that sat on his office desk, but as he grew more confident and as he accepted Lena into his life, we watched him become more comfortable with the harmonium as well. I've read several comments about this film posted around the web, and it seems that the meaning behind the harmonium and its correlation to the developing story was often missed.

Perhaps the thing that impressed me most about "Punch-Drunk Love" was Adam Sandler's performance as Barry Egan. Not only did Sandler impressively hold the screen with the talented Emily Watson, there were several scenes where Watson seemed to have to keep pace with Sandler.

It was obviously not the first time that a comedic actor successfully took on a more dramatic role. Two others who come to mind are Robin Williams and Jim Carrey. Carrey, most impressive in "The Truman Show" (1998), has adapted well, but it's obvious on the screen that he's trying his hardest to convince us. Sandler however, despite his recent mediocre comedic efforts, gave a much more effortless performance. He looked natural as Barry Egan, a character that seemed just right for him.

Given my prior reservations, the beautifully shot "Punch-Drunk Love" was a surprisingly unique and enjoyable film. Paul Thomas Anderson crafted a stylish romance that had conventional appeal, yet remained quite distinctive.

"Punch-Drunk Love" Review written October 27, 2002, CTF.

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"Punch-Drunk Love" DVD

Punch-Drunk Love DVD

DVD Features:

* Theatrical trailer(s)
* "Blossoms & Blood" (12-minute feature including alternate takes, Jeremy Blake artwork, and Jon Brion's "Here We Go" music video directed by PTA)
* Deleted scenes
* Mattress Man commercial
* 12 Scopitones
* Additional artwork by Jeremy Blake
* Widescreen anamorphic format
* Number of discs: 2

...more Paul Thomas
Anderson films

Boogie Nights on DVD
Boogie Nights

(click to buy
at Amazon.com)

Magnolia on DVD


(click to buy
at Amazon.com)


ChasingtheFrog.com, CTF Media