“I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine,” said Barry Egan.
This is, perhaps, the best and the most out of place entry to my November Rain series—a PTA film in a sentimental rom-com list. But, wait! Punch-Drunk Love is a rom-com, too; even if it’s being too stylized with that arthouse, avant-garde, you-name-it taste. It even lists Adam Sandler in a goody-goody romance with Emily Watson. Isn’t it too little too campy?
Unstable. That’s that. That’s, I think, the best way to illustrate how Punch-Drunk Love is going. For the first 40 minutes, I don’t even have idea of what this movie will be; there’s a talkie opening with nothing much on screen but Adam Sandler as Barry Egan, an L.A. company owner with his plain blue shirt in his empty room and someone on the phone line. There are random things: a rollover car, a harmonium, Barry’s seven sisters’ phone calls, terrible party, phone sex conversations, and all. What we can learn is: Barry is a lonely, troubled man who gets freaked out easily. What a startup.
Then, came Emily Watson as Lena, a clumsy woman in red, and the movie finally finds its identity as a rom-com. The girl comes with sparks of love that Barry finds it difficult to avoid. Yet, that’s not the only thing he finds difficult to avoid (Really, there’s too little story to tell, but too many details to tell about Punch-Drunk Love); as he must catch a flight to Hawaii to avoid ‘the thing’, on the pretext to himself of pursuing her love (which eventually comes real).
Along came the completely deviating third act, when Barry and Lena return to L.A., with a triumph over turmoil and adversity… and dirty words… and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Then, we learn that every detail spread along the movie is meaningful; and every single action-reaction coming after is an impact of a brilliant writing by PTA. Seriously, there’s no rom-com as blatant as this; and there’s no rom-com as bleak as this.
It’s satisfying to witness this Adam Sandler’s arthouse focusing on revealing a deep character study from every detail, but not the character. His character and the surroundings are carefully build upon the brilliantly crafted narrative reflected in the beautifully shot visuals with cleverly scored scenes. While being entangled in the beauty, in no time, the movie ends and, suddenly, I want to re-watch it to arrange pieces to pieces of it.
There are too many things to romanticize about mesmerizing details in Punch-Drunk Love: Adam Sandler’s all-the-time blue suits or the car rollover or the parallel door with all ‘Exit’ signs or the harmonium and other things, especially the puddings. If we follow the red thread carefully, we’ll see the shriveled details as an entity to literally or symbolically depict Barry Egan’s life and all.
I guess, this is a perfect finale for November Rain series, although it’s not November anymore (but the rain still pours). Don’t judge it by Adam Sandler’s persona to amplify your feeling in your rainy day movie time, judge it by PTA’s brilliant taste of rom-com there, and you’ll find a completely new perspective in enjoying the rain.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Drama, Comedy, Romance Written & Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson Starred by: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman Running Time: 95 mins Rated R for strong language including a scene of sexual dialogue