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Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Feel the love

Directed by:

Paul Thomas Anderson

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 95 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

Adam Sandler has finally been found out. Only it’s not in the way most of us probably expected. Instead of being exposed as the yelling one-trick pony so many people take him for (and not without reason), ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ sees him produce a startlingly accomplished turn as a “serious” actor.

As the hyper-neurotic Barry Egan, Sandler’s character could hardly be described as a million miles away from the type he usually plays. He’s still a socially-inept oddball with anger management problems – with Sandler, it seems, such characteristics go with the territory. But what’s different here is his incredible handling of the role, teased out of him by ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘Magnolia’ director Paul Thomas Anderson.

Egan is a lonely, troubled businessman who, despite suffering from a deep fear of public interaction, falls in love with the quietly confident Lena (Emily Watson). The two are soon a couple, but Barry has a major monkey on his back in the form of a blackmailing phone sex company (headed with grimy authority by Philip Seymour Hoffman). You’ll know from an early stage that conflict lies ahead, but second-guessing the resolution is another matter entirely.

Anderson shoots the movie in semi-arty style, interspersing scenes with lurid colours and at times building Jon Brion’s score to the point that it drowns out the dialogue and hammers home Barry’s feelings of social claustrophobia. The performance he extracts from Sandler is so remarkable you’d be forgiven for thinking no director will ever manage such a feat again. Either way, the end result is an astoundingly good piece of film-making. It’s unusual, challenging, refreshing and is guaranteed to get you thinking.

Now all we need is for someone to make a film that exposes Rob Schneider as a closet Oscar-worthy thesp and I’ll REALLY be impressed.

It's Got: Lots of puddings and a harmonium (it’s a kind of piano, apparently).

It Needs: To be seen by even the most ardent Sandler-bashers.

DVD Extras The needlessly separate bonus disc is a bit of a mixed bag, with some fascinating deleted scenes weighed down by an array of self-indulgent artwork showreels and a bizarre music video-type compilation of moments from the movie. There are also some trailers and a spoof ‘Mattress Man’ commercial. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Summary

An absolute triumph.

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