time: 95 minutes
by Kevin Lang
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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