Punch Drunk Love


Although it stars funnyman Adam Sandler, this subversive romantic comedy from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson is no Happy Gilmore. In a riveting performance, Sandler plays Barry, a doleful entrepreneur who falls for Lena (Emily Watson), a straight-shooting divorcee. As the two fragile loners form a hesitant bond, Barry’s numerous idiosyncrasies – including a tendency toward sudden violent outbursts – threaten to destroy the uneasy intimacy between them. Overflowing with symbolism and awash in light and color, the film reinterprets the “date movie” genre by alternating laugh-out-loud moments with scenes that are profoundly distressing. Throughout, Sandler’s mere presence intensifies the surreal nature of the proceedings, thanks to his restrained and remarkable portrayal of a self-loathing man completely uncomfortable in his own skin.

Grade: A-

Kinsey Scale: 1 (Anderson’s Magnolia and Boogie Nights featured gay characters played, as it happens, by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who’s seen here as the unscrupulous manager of a phone-sex line. Sandler’s character explodes after being called “gayboy” by his sisters).

(Appeared in Q Syndicate)