Review: Punch Drunk Love

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC 10 Movies With Unconventional Relationships

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“What am I looking for, what am I looking for? Please tell me, talk to me”.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s fourth feature film after Hard EightBoogie Nights & Magnolia is either a drama or an unsentimental romantic comedy, depending on what you’re sensitive to.  Featuring Adam Sandler as the seemingly affable Barry, a smart, straight-talking vulnerable man, dealing in bathroom supplies.  He is endearingly honest with people who abuse his confidentiality, yet balances this with a multi-faceted personality – polite and drily funny with the ability to get extremely angry when provoked. Barry has seven omnipresent sisters; the type who think that family means being able to say whatever they want to their younger brother, consisting mainly of teasing and mockery.

Emily Watson as Lena Leonard, is the surprise in Barry’s life, as naturally good as she always is. Anderson, when talking about the casting said that both Watson and Sandler seemed like nice people, the kind he’d like to have round for dinner. This film is not the traditional vehicle for Sandler’s classic comic characters, which is a refreshing surprise. It is a stripped back version, featuring some dark desperation, and nobody can say shut up like the crooked mattress salesman Dean Trumbell (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as he tries to wreak havoc on Barry’s life. The late and great Hoffman, who appeared in five of Thomas Anderson’s films, makes the film worth seeing for his scenes alone.

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Jon Brion has composed the soundtracks to all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films and this one is as good as the rest. It is a beautifully constant presence, complimenting the script, unlike many soundtracks which distract and intentionally manipulate.

Despite not doing well at the box office when it was released 14 years ago, Anderson won his only Best Director award for it at Cannes in 2002. The film has since been recognised as one of his best. Punch Drunk Love is a brilliant film about human relationships as well as the beauty and anxiety of falling in love.

…and you can grab a pair of tickets for tomorrow’s London screening here.


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An Australian who has spent most of her adult life in Paris, Louise is a sometime photographer, documentary-maker, writer, researcher, day-dreamer and interviewer, who prefers to start the day at the local cinema’s 9am session.