Sunday, August 22, 2010

Punch-Drunk Love (Re-Issue)

Rewatched this film today, took notes, but I'm not sure if I'm going to write an essay. Here's my original review of the film, which I momentarily took off my blog:

Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love" is amazing in the way that it understands its lead character so well. Anderson embeds small details in the way he usually does. He put so much purpose in every shot, in every little fixture, making the film quite an experience. Adam Sandler has spent his career on throwaway comedies that have gotten bad critical reception. Here is where he really acts for the first time as Barry Egan, a main man at a plunger warehouse who seems to have Asperger's Syndrome. The way Anderson deals with Egan’s problem is pure brilliance. The film's structure is based on how I believe a person of such disposition would view the world. For example, when Egan is at work, the film strikes up dissonance in many, many instruments. When he is happy and with his girlfriend Lena (played wonderfully by Emily Watson in a short performance that still manages to be utterly charming), the music changes to a lighter and more romantic feel.

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-.

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