Sunday, February 28, 2010

559 - You Aught to Know - Punch-Drunk Love - #8




Punch-Drunk Love, Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002, 43 points

The key to the success of Punch-Drunk Love is in an early, almost imperceptible scene. Barry Egan is in the frozen-foods aisle at a local supermarket. He opens the cooler door, and for one moment, the soundtrack is flooded with the overwhelming white-noise hum of the refrigeration unit. Then the door closes, and everything is quite again. It's a tiny flourish that says everything about Paul Thomas Anderson's grandly bizarre romantic comedy. The rom-com genre often seems predicated on outsized, heedless gestures; while Punch-Drunk Love has a few of those, its true potency stems from its amplification of the seemingly insignificant. This is immediately reflective of Egan's fractured state of mind, with a placid, awkward exterior concealing an explosive rage triggered by the the most offhand of slights, but it also becomes a sneaky commentary on the mechanics of falling in love. Very few of us have ever impulsively flown to Hawaii just because a girl we knew was there, but I imagine a lot of us have shared a nervous yet genuine laugh, noticed the purposeful sway in a certain person's hips or gotten caught in that should-I-or-shouldn't-I feint when moving in for a goodnight kiss. The magic in PTA's touch is to take this story of two oddballs finding each other and make it feel universal, honest, real. Name me another film that could successfully posit the phrase, "I have a lot of pudding," as a swooning declaration of love and devotion. The little things, they do add up. - Steve Carlson


People thought he was kidding. Paul Thomas Anderson, whose entrance onto the scene in the second half of the 90's established him wunderkind filmmaking genius, was making an Adam Sandler movie. What the hell was he thinking? Just the idea of the auteur behind the fabulously slick and intense porn industry frenzy of Boogie Nights and the epic night in Los Angeles drama Magnolia was even stranger than the conclusion to the latter film, which saw a torrent of bullfrogs fall from the sky and crash into the intertwined worlds of a collection of deeply unhappy people.

With Punch-Drunk Love, Anderson taught us a lesson: don't doubt his genius. He put together a love story, the love story of the decade, with a familiar plot (boy meets girl, boy romances girl, boy overcomes personal troubles to get girl) laced with idiosyncratic affection (the boy's an angry social misfit, the personal troubles involve a phone sex scam).

It's a dizzyingly offbeat experience, the blossoming love between meek but angry Barry Egan (Sandler) and the ethereal Lena Leonard (Emily Watson) as confusing and enthralling, stirring a field of emotions that encompasses incendiary rage and gorgeous happiness. It's an assortment of plot angles and scenes that in any other set of hands would be incoherent, but here they meld as one seamless celebration of human affection for a desirable mate. At moments Anderson lets him film literally dissolve into a tapestry of dazzling colors, swirling about to the beat of heart fluttering music, suggesting love itself as a series of emotions, musical notes that pulsate through the spirit, playing our souls like an instrument, making beautiful music as it breathes. - James Frazier

Punch-Drunk Love is a new take on an old story. Boy finds girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy overcomes his obstacles because he is in love. Barry Egan (played by Adam Sandler) puts up a facade of being mild-mannered and soft-spoken due to a life of being pushed around and bullied by his seven sisters. Yes, seven. Adam Sandler does a marvelous job of showing Barry's constant inner struggle to be mild and quiet. This of course breaks down a few times with some massive outbursts. At one point, He trashes a restaurant bathroom in a fit of rage, and is basically kicked out. Through the course of meeting Lena (Emily Watson) on a semi-blind date, and getting to know her, he falls in love. This then makes him able to confront all the things that have been plaguing him throughout the movie. He is able to tell off his sister, and brutalize a carload of white-trash that try to hurt him and Lena. The scene where he confronts Philip Seymour Hoffman's character face to face shows how much stronger Barry is now that he has found love. Overall, it is an amazing movie about how love can give you the strength to do overcome virtually any obstacles. - Tony Girard





Next time on You Aught to Know: Tom Slife

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