directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Clocking in at 95 intense minutes, Paul Thomas Anderson’s shortest feature film doesn’t pack any less of a punch than his more sprawling works. His auteur vision of Americana as alienation is always replenished and refreshingly new each time, and not to mention Punch-Drunk Love contains the very best Adam Sandler role ever, period. Sandler scores as Barry Egan the way Mickey Rourke scored as The Ram, creating a truly heartbreaking and tragically human portrait of loneliness that is in no way silly, despite every friggin moron in the theatre with me watching this tour de force and laughing like they were watching an episode of Jackass. Ha ha! Billy Madison just broke a sliding door. Idiots. I felt the kind of anxious rage boiling inside of me that Barry must have felt when his car gets hit. Anderson’s films are every one of them amazing in different ways, and his little love story is one of the finest examples of romance in existence. I would place this film up there with Casablanca or Natural Born Killers, Pulp Fiction or Edward Scissorhands. Wait- are you surprised by the list I just made? Were you expecting Love Story? When Harry Met Sally? You’ve Got effing Mail? What are you, new? P.S. Hoffman is solidly smarmy as Mattress Man Dean Trumbell, laying it on just thick enough to make his evil delicious. The scopitone flourishes will make you swoon, as will the tremendous Emily Watson (if you can’t get enough, go watch her in Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves), who plays Barry’s counterpoint in a world of darkness. The film has humor in it, to be sure, but it’s certainly not the kind of crazy ass, cartoonish absurdity of Billy Madison or the Waterboy, so beware, all you old school Sandler lovers. The payoff is huge, however, and it just may change your mind about the funny man. It’s also about as close to sentimental that you will ever see Anderson, bar possibly his Fiona Apple music video on the Pleasantville DVD.