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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)



Reviews and Comments

Punch-Drunk Love was overrated critically and underrated commercially. The unlikely combination of Adam Sandler and director Paul Thomas Anderson is surprisingly effective, but I think it's safe to say it's unequivocally weird. Sometimes art just seems weird to us because it's an original vision; other times it's just weird to pretend to be. Punch-Drunk Love is a little of both.

The movie ultimately works for a few reasons. One, the love story between the two central characters is convincing and touching. We sense they are not just going through the requisite motions but have genuine, multi-dimensional feelings. Two, most of the movie is quite funny. I enjoyed, for example, a discreet confrontation between Sandler and a waiter. It's funny, but listen to the dialogue: it's beautifully written and perfectly timed. Three, as is the case in too many of Sandler's comedies, the inner rage in his characters is not wrapped in humor and presented as something we're supposed to laugh at. When he has outbursts of temper or violence, we see that for what it is and why it is.

That said, Punch Drunk Love is not without excesses. A good portion of its quirky nature feels gratuitous and distracting, rather than contributing to a satisfyingly fresh tone. I didn't much care for most of the soundtrack and the psychedelic scene transitions, and some of the stranger plot threads, while initially compelling, frustratingly lack payoffs.

Still, the movie is more than worth seeing. Sandler's fans may not like it so much, but as one who finds his usual work insufferable, this is a breath of fresh air.