Punch Drunk Love

Review Haiku

In this strange movie

Paul Thomas Anderson made

Adam Sandler great

Rating: 3.5/5? I honestly don’t know how to rate this movie

Bizarro RomCom Challenge 2015

This is the strangest review I’ll have written yet, I’m sure. Because Punch Drunk Love is the strangest movie I’ve seen during the Challenge, and because I’m genuinely confused about how I feel.

Here we have Paul Thomas Anderson, who directs movies that generally earn universal praise. Having never seen Boogie Nights or There Will Be Blood, my initial impression is that Anderson is a visionary director whose films are probably followed passionately by a large sect of aficionados. He seems like an artist who takes pleasure in instilling his own unique style into every film he creates, the type of artist who has ardent fans as well as detractors who claim he’s pretentious and overrated.

Paul Thomas Anderson, if Punch Drunk Love is any indication, is the director I would likely associate with the following statement: this man makes very good movies, unique, interesting, though-provoking in many ways–but I’m not sure if I like the final product. To me, Punch Drunk Love is the most prominent example in the Challenge so far of a movie I know is good, yet could not enjoy for many reasons. It’s a strange feeling, almost like I’m missing out on appreciating a masterpiece. But it appears that Paul Thomas Anderson, while interesting, simply isn’t my cup of tea.

Here’s what I enjoyed about Punch Drunk Love

If you’ve been following the Challenge from the start, you know that I love to bitch about the tropes and unoriginality that permeate the fabric of the rom-com genre. This seems stale, I’ve seen that 100 times already, yada yada yada. Punch Drunk Love takes convention and RKOs it out of fucking nowhere. This was both refreshing and detrimental (I’ll get to that in a second), and for someone who keeps harping on the generic qualities of these movies I have to say I was impressed.

In a typical rom-com, you’d be introduced to the main character, usually a late-20s or early 30s male or female who simply can’t find love and is obsessed with the prospect of settling down. Sometimes there are funny moments, a lot of times there is gooshy love; the vast majority of the time, there are one-dimensional characters looking for nothing in life but the ultimate love of their dreams. This is what a rom-com is. On its own, it works–but the formula weighs on you when watching so many consecutively.

Punch Drunk Love introduces Barry, played by Adam Sandler (who, I might add, is phenomenally talented when he tries hard. I can only imagine his recent run of ineptitude is due to his laziness and nothing more), a clearly troubled man with underlying psychological issues and a violent temper. Barry isn’t looking for love, he’s just looking to be accepted by his horrid group of sisters. Love eventually finds its way to him in the form of Lena (Emily Watson), who sees past his flaws and decides to make something work. But at its core, Punch Drunk Love isn’t about that relationship, it’s about Barry and his struggles. This is a character study, which is something you almost never see in a rom-com. It was very interesting to see this approach put into play, and it made the movie stand out from all the others I’ve watched.

I’m very conflicted, though

As I said in the opening, I’m fully aware that Punch Drunk Love is a very good film. I just didn’t enjoy watching it.

Some directors we like, some we don’t. Like many people, I love Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg and other titans of action and drama. Paul Thomas Anderson is a different animal. This film was about emotion and substance, not thrills or even plot. More than any other rom-com I’ve watched, this was more about the director’s style. And I’m sorry to say that I’m not a huge fan.

This movie was just…boring at times. Like, really boring. There were scenes that dragged on and on, beautiful, technically proficient scenes, but scenes as dull as traffic at rush hour. There are people who love this stuff, I know. I’m not one of them. I’ve grown up watching John McLane save Nakatomi Tower, Jake and Elmore Blues run wild in Chicago, and Jason Bourne kill fools who got in his way. Watching Adam Sandler mope through 90 minutes of what amounts to crushing loneliness was not much fun. Again, that’s just my opinion. I know that there are multitudes of viewers who appreciate the style.

The other thing about this movie (though it may indicate how good it was) was how uneasy it made me. Punch Drunk Love makes for aggressively uncomfortable viewing, be it watching Barry cry when his sisters berate him for being different, or…you know what? Pretty much every scene with Barry was uncomfortable. I didn’t enjoy watching it one bit. I guess that means that Adam Sandler did a spectacular job with the character, because all I felt was sorrow and pity for this poor son of a bitch who doesn’t catch a break until the last two minutes.

GOD I’M SO CONFUSED. I liked this movie, but I didn’t like it. This is impossible to review.

Final thoughts

Not very funny: There were almost no laughs in Punch Drunk Love, and scenes that were designed to be “funny” only came off as sad. I don’t think this was necessarily a huge flaw, but it made me wonder whether it really was a rom-com.

Claustrophobia: I think everyone has it to an extent. This movie was claustrophobic as fuck. There were so many extended, frantic, herky-jerky camera pans I felt like I was going to have a seizure. It was really cool, honestly–as a passionate fan of Children of Men, which has two of my favorite movie scenes of all time, I find extensive tracking shots awesome. This movie used those camera strategies to absolutely full effect. As David Ansen of Newseek noted, “it’s a romantic comedy on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

Sappiness Rating: 0/10: Being one of the more unique movies I’ve watched, I’m not surprised by my sappiness rating. Frankly, there was no gooshy, sugary-sweet love for the entire movie. It was great! The love at the end actually felt real.

Conclusion

Thus ends the most confusing review I’ve ever published. This movie was good, but I didn’t enjoy it, even though I kind of did. What the hell, David. Get it together.

If it was this hard for me to get through a 90-minutes Paul Thomas Anderson movie, I’m having serious doubts about my ability to get through three-plus hours of There Will Be Blood, a movie that I’m quite certain will elicit the same reactions from me as this one did.

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