Punch-Drunk Love (USA; 89min.)

directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
starring: Adam Sandler; Emily Watson; Philip Seymour Hoffman
Punch-Drunk Love
Bob says: "I've seen this film twice now, and I'm still not sure what to think. It's clearly an extension of the idea Anderson so overtly espoused in MAGNOLIA -- that the unexpected can indeed happen. This time he managed to get that point across without resorting to a rain of frogs, and instead gave us a series of coincidences that somehow work to put this troubled (and frankly rather unlikeable) guy into a relationship with a rather interesting woman. I still wonder what she sees in him, but not so much that I'd want to see a sequel.

"My personal opinion is that BOOGIE NIGHTS was Anderson's high point. I thought it was utterly audacious, individualistic and well... cinematic. And I see HARD EIGHT (you really should see that one, Michael) as an early experiment that led up to BOOGIE NIGHTS. While I enjoyed MAGNOLIA, and found it thoughtful, I really condidered it a step down, or at least an attempt on Anderson's part to use his skills to take people in another direction, and one that just didn't happen to be a direction I was interested in going.

"My only real criticism of PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE is the presence of Adam Sandler. While I thought he managed this role far better than I'd expected him to, I'm sure there are plenty of people who could have done a better job. He's never impressed me at all. There's an article about Winona Ryder in the current issue of Film Comment that refers to Sandler as 'that coldly calculated, faux naif... (an American comedian only a Frenchman could really love).' I know Anderson approached him for this role; I don't know if it was written with him in mind. But I don't know what he sees in him either."
Emily says: "Greg and I saw PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE love last weekend. its great. I highly recommend it. Adam Sandler really achieves a new (the first?) level of acting in this one, and Emily Watson is refreshingly natural and unpretentious. The unfolding of the story itself is genius and totally riveting." 5 cats
Hilary says: "This was one of the most annoying films Iíve seen in some time. If that was the intention, then they hit that one right out of the park. I left the theatre having thought of three ways the film couldíve worked better, though also not caring at the same time.

"1. At this length (89 minutes Ė very brief for a PT Anderson film) it was an overlong character sketch that would have worked well at half the length. Though then it REALLY wouldíve been a docu-drama about a highly functioning autistic: Adam Sandlerís Rainmain. Perhaps I really missed something, but I couldnít figure out whether the viewer was to assume that Sandlerís character, Barry, had a condition like autism or simply hadnít developed socially as a result of living with his seven overbearing, garrulous sisters.

"2. I also would have been happy to have the film twice as long, and then only for the opportunity to introduce other characters or flesh out the supporting cast, such as Luis Guzman and Philip Seymour Hoffman, two actors whose work I really enjoy and have given solid performances in Andersonís earlier work.

"3. The film couldíve been a musical; a strange musical, but one nonetheless. The soundtrack was so dominant, especially in scenes where the action was relatively subdued, which was almost every scene in which Sandler wasnít physically destroying things. I felt that Anderson was trying to evoke old Hollywood musical romances with the instrumental music and the way that Sandler and Emily Watsonís characters interacted. At several intervals throughout the film I expected the characters to break into an impromptu dance, like Sandlerís shopping cart spin & soft-shoe routine in the grocery store.

"For me the suspension of disbelief that Watsonís character would actively seek out Sandler to be in a relationship with was FAR too great. The theory of women wanting to date 'fixer-uppers' is one thing, but this was simply ridiculous. I agreed with other Chlotrudis members who rank BOOGIE NIGHTS as the best of Andersonís work, with flawed epic MAGNOLIA lagging behind. (I havenít seen HARD EIGHT yet, but am curious to see how it stacks up.)

"I left this film with a large headache and thanks that it was over so soon."
Ivy says: "Iím not going to say a word about this film until you all have seen it. I look forward to hearing what you all think... I loved it, and it gave me a severe backache Ė literally."
Laura says: "Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) runs his own novelty toilet plunger business in desolate L.A. garage space. One day, he witnesses a horrifying car accident, a harmonium is dumped on the sidewalk in front of him, his seven sisters harass him on the phone over a family birthday party and a pretty young woman, Lena (Emily Watson, GOSFORD PARK), asks him to watch her car. Barry maintains a controlled exterior, bottled up in an electric blue suit, but privately boils over into violent rages. As Barry falls for Lena, who's inexplicably interested in him, and tangles with a blackmailing phone sex operator, he finds himself in 'Punch-Drunk Love.'

"Paul Thomas Anderson follows up his magnum opus MAGNOLIA with a short, quirky romance inspired by Adam Sandler fandom and the real life story of a man who bought 12,150 pudding cups to get 1 million airline miles. While the movie suffers from being episodic, it recognizes the Sandler persona in an oddly entertaining way and features a comedic tour de force performance from Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman." 3 1/2 cats
For Laura's complete review: "http://www.reelingreviews.com/punchdrunklove.htm"
Michael says: "I loved it. I really thought it was terrific. How Paul Thomas Anderson took your standard romance and turn it on its ear was just fascinating to watch. I also really enjoyed Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Luis Guzman. Both Scot and I thought Mary Lynn Rajskub who played the sister Elizabeth was wonderful as well.

"Anderson and his cinematographer Robert Elswit (Chlotrduis nominee for MAGNOLIA) did a wonderful job with the inventive camera work and lighting. And the sound design was so effective as well. While I was not as tense throughout as Ivy was, I can certainly understand why. Some of those explosive scenes just seemed to come out of nowhere!

"I'm really impressed at how Paul Thomas Anderson is evolving as a filmmaker. While I enjoyed BOOGIE NIGHTS, I thought it was flawed. MAGNOLIA while far from perfect, I really thought was rather amazing. Now it's nice to see him make such a wonderful film that is so very different from that one. I really need to see HARD EIGHT.

"Chalk PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE up as a incredibly welcome surprise. Just found it delightful." 4 1/2 cats
Nathaniel R. says: "Some filmmakers start slowly and learn as they go. Some auteurs are infrequently inspired but have one or two masterpieces in them. Some directors do sturdy work but never create cinematic magic. But there are a select few who start spectacularly well and accelerate famously to the top. They become mythologized because their early efforts are so fully realized. The myth of the wunkerkind in Hollywood filmmaking has been around forever. Orson Welles wasn't the first or last young director to ignite the screen with a fully formed aesthetic or narrative gift. Spielberg and Scorsese erupted in the 70s. Quentin Tarantino was the indie-fueled mainstream discovery of the 90s. M. Night Shyamalan has recently been anointed by some eager media types. But right about now, P.T. Anderson is the one who is sitting pretty somewhere knowing (and rightly so) that he is God's gift to the American cinema. He knows it in the same way that Quentin Tarantino once understood his own vitality. But since Mr. Anderson seems to be intent on making pictures rather than being an abstract celebrity, it feels a lot more meaningful this time around.

"PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE proves to be an extremely appropriate title for Anderson's fourth outing. It has surprising swirls of violence, it veers around in a dangerous fashion like an inebriated driver, but it's mostly a love story. To its credit, all of the elements work in that same dangerous palette of feeling. The jokes sometimes feel like jabs in the gut. And though Hollywood has trained the audience to view the protagonist of any picture as their safe zone, this picture won't allow that lazy comfort. There's no telling when Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) will explode and smash something nearby -he does so early in the picture. Yet once you get the hang of the movie's furious rhythms, the off-kilter surprising narrative is really fun to follow (it's a crying shame that many critics will spoil it for you).

"Yet, after the sprawling epic of BOOGIE NIGHTS and the spiritual grandiosity of MAGNOLIA, it's hard to wonder if PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE isn't just a big time director blowing off steam. For the first time in a P.T. Anderson picture, the acting takes a quiet backseat. No grand statement seems to emerge. But however minor the picture may be, it comes together in a major way. Beautiful things happen all around in the choreography, cinematography, scoring, and editing that suggest a filmmaking team led by a maverick at the top of his game. Unlike Soderbergh's summer entry FULL FRONTAL (a similarly fast and loose personal exercize from a top director), it feels very cohesive and supercharged. PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE is a little, but giddy, experiment that, perhaps appropriately, packs a big punch. Though it lacks the emotional weight and resonance of Anderson's previous efforts, it is so blessedly itself that it becomes moving anyway. When Barry and Lena (Emily Watson) embrace halfway through the picture in a busy walkway I felt as carried away as the rush of the passersby, swept off my feet and up into their sudden love. It wasn't the performances, it wasn't the love, it was the energy of the filmmaking.

"Given that LOVE is inexplicably odd and has a rage-filled nature (even the love story avoids sweetness and light), it will end up infuriating many. It will have more detractors than Anderson's previous efforts. A good litmus test might be the amphibious storm in MAGNOLIA. Want a whole picture like that? See PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE! For those viewers who barely made it through that film's musical number but exasperatedly gave up hope when the biblical plague struck, P.T. Anderson's latest film may be Hell on Earth to sit through. To tell the truth, I wasn't even sure from moment to moment whether or not I liked it myself . But watching PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, I perversely felt like my enjoyment was beside the point. The picture, slight and bizarre as it is, is simply too vivid to dismiss. I have a feeling that certain sequences are going to have staying power. And, you see, Paul Thomas Anderson, with three terrific features under his belt, has earned his right to show off a little. And show off he does. Armed with a blatant disregard for convention, he has spectacularly honed his lyrical gift for imaginative leaps into the beyond. If more American filmmakers take his cue, Hollywood could reclaim its title as the dream factory in no time."

And in response to Bob: "I really enjoyed this on first viewing for the sheer singularity of Anderson's work. I LOVE films to throw me for a loop. So few films even try.

"But I have to say that on second viewing the movie didn't deepen any so I now see it as a directorial triumph but a minor piece nonetheless. Like Bob, I also think Boogie Nights is his best film. But I do feel he's grown tremendously as a filmmaker since then---if that makes any sense?--- It's just that the two films since then haven't been as cohesive. I expect that he's only going to get better and better in terms of technique and vision... but Boogie Nights is so magical, it'll be tough to top. HARD EIGHT sad and immensely promising

* BOOGIE NIGHTS superb * MAGNOLIA something of a flawed masterwork * and PUNCHDRUNK LOVE a rich experiment That's a GREAT filmography there."
Peg says: "You will LOVE PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE. Your eyes will pop out of your heads. Your heads might even explode. WHO KNEW Adam Sandler could act? I mean, really act? I didn't."
Robin says: "In a departure from the large ensemble casts in BOOGIE NIGHTS and MAGNOLIA, Anderson has created a minimalist film that delves solely into the mind and character of Barry Egan. Barry has some deep-seated emotional issue after growing up in a predominantly female household. (At a family party, they all keep reminding him that they always called him 'gay boy' when he was young.) This past and Barry's present penchant to keep to himself, often with bouts of uncontrolled crying, make the man an outsider to normal society. Then, he meets a pretty young lady named Lena (Watson) who likes him despite his oddball behavior. Meanwhile, he stumbles upon the huge flaw in the Healthy Choice free air miles giveaway. Of course, for a man who has amassed enough air miles to travel for the rest of his life for free, Barry has never been on an airplane.

"Things seem to being going great for Egan except for one minor problem. In a fit of loneliness, he makes a call to a phone 'companion' line and gives his name, address, phone number, credit card number and social security number after being assured by 'Georgia,' his phone friend, that it would all be kept strictly confidential. The next morning, Barry gets a call from Georgia demanding that he give her money or she will call his girlfriend. He ignores the threat (Lena is not in the picture quite yet) and is jumped one night by Georgia's four blond brothers and forced to pay up $500. As Barry and Lena grow close, he takes a firm hand in getting a grip on himself and what is really important in his life. " 3 1/2 cats
For Robin's complete review: "