a critiQal film review Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Plot: Barry Egan (Sandler) owns a company that markets themed toilet plungers and other novelty items. He has seven overbearing sisters who ridicule him regularly, and leads a very lonely life punctuated by fits of rage. In the span of one morning, he witnesses a bizarre car accident, picks up an abandoned harmonium from the street, and encounters Lena Leonard (Watson), who he later learns orchestrated the meeting.

Reviewed
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  • ...Sandler's more serious turn proves he's more than just another "SNL" alumni.

I’d heard really good things about Punch-Drunk Love from a number of people, most notably that it was a totally different role for Adam Sandler than we are used to seeing him in.

The previews didn’t help much, so I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to fork over the cash to see it in the theater. Now that it’s come to DVD, however, it was something I definitely had to check out.

Adam Sandler was a great surprise in Punch-Drunk Love. After solidifying his comedy persona (The Waterboy, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, etc.), it was a pretty good assumption that was the only type of film that he was going to be in. Then came rumors about a more dramatic film role for him, in Punch-Drunk Love.

We sat down, ready to scoff at his poor attempt at the dramatic…and were pleasantly surprised. His character in Punch-Drunk Love has a lot of little quirks, and is rather complex, but Sandler does an excellent job of portraying him. It makes one wonder if the character was just perfect for him, or if he would be able to repeat the quality of the performance with a different character. It seems to be a possibility, since he really was able to take this character and run with it.

The rest of the characters (including Emily Watson’s Lena), while decently acted, basically seemed to just fill out the film a little, since this film is total Sandler from beginning to end.

The film also showcased an incredible transition in Barry, and Sandler was able to pull that off very well. When we first meet Barry, we know he’s got some problems, evident just by the way he acts, but we aren’t quite sure yet what they are.

As the film progresses, we witness a few of his outbursts, and also get to meet his new girl Lena. You can almost feel the nervousness emanating from Barry during the first few meetings he and Lena have. At one point, Lena is talking on the phone, and Barry is just sitting nearby with a total puppy dog look of trust on his face, and you know that he is putty in Lena’s hands. The facial expressions Sandler employs are perfect throughout, and give you a deeper sense of the character than the dialogue does.

The plot was a bit strange, yet oddly likable, just like Barry Egan himself. To be stalked by a phone sex girl, right after you meet the woman of your dreams – while at the same time battling personal demons – wow. Definitely a wildly original plot. The film could have played out in so many ways from that premise – everything from horror to comedy.

Punch-Drunk Love aimed for quirky, and almost seemed to be Barry’s retelling of his story. It really helped to involve the viewer, since the film kind of mimic’s Barry to such a degree you almost feel like you’re in his head.

If you thought Adam Sandler was nothing but a “Saturday Night Live” (TV) alumni who’s good for a laugh, you owe it to yourself to check out Punch-Drunk Love. While some of the strange color flashes in between scenes can get somewhat annoying (I believe they call them “Sepitones”), it’s definitely worth checking out just the same. You won’t regret it.

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