Not much in the life of Barry Egan is this bright. His seven unrelenting sisters get on his case about everything, bullying him to the point of madness, causing him to implode and destroy everything around him. Feeling lonely (before he gets involved with Lena), he phones a scheming sexual hotline, gives too much of his personal information and puts himself into loads of trouble when his provider asks him repeatedly for money and resorts to threatening him with a few brutes to rough him up. This provides the entrance of Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman, who delivers somewhat of an unsatisfactory performance; it lacks too much depth to be in a film such as this, where everything is so full. Although his scene is humorous and quite memorable, it just meets the requirements and doesn't expand. Not very P.T. Anderson-like. But most everything else is.
Filmed with a kinetic eye by Robert Elswit, who adds a fantastic touch to the film's look (especially with the somewhat random dreamscapes that pop up from time to time) and scored with a quirky ear by Charlie Kaufman regular Jon Brion, it feels beautiful. Anderson scripts with a hilarious and devastating pen, especially with the details about Egan and his way of using a Healthy Choice pudding gaffe to earn tons of frequent flier miles. The dialogue is quite offbeat, and it adds to the overall disorienting texture of the movie. The virtuoso work by Sandler is what really stands out and holds things together, however. It shows that the man has a screen persona behind his meta-goofy veneer, and makes us hope he reveals it again.
The only real complaint I could make about this film is very small: it's a little short for my tastes. In 95 minutes, the film's canvas bursts to the brim, whereas in a 115-minute movie, the juices may have stayed together and have been a little better flowing. But what other movie really gives an accurate portrayal of a man confounded with Asperger's? “Punch-Drunk Love” is somewhat of a modern gem with a couple of flaws. That said, it rings true so much, and with a magnetism that’s so undeniably enchanting it’s nearly impossible not to get drawn in. A
Upon second viewing, I may swing down to an A-.