DIRECTED BY PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON
STARRING: ADAM SANDLER, EMILY WATSON, LUIS GUZMAN, MARY LYNN RAJSKUB, LISA SPECTOR, JULIE HERMELIN, KAREN HERMELIN, HAZEL MAILLOUX, NICOLE GELBARD, MIA WEINBERG, DAVID STEVENS, JIMMY STEVENS, NATHAN STEVENS, MIKE D. STEVENS, ASHLEY CLARK and PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN
The very idea of a romance comes with strangeness. It is the out-of-the-world feeling that your favourite characters inspire that which makes you like them so much. Perhaps Woody Allen deconstructed a little on that when he wrote his everyday ‘Annie Hall’ to counter the ‘Casablanca’s there were, but Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Punch-Drunk Love’, to me, seemed to be a memorable regression to the fantasy land of romance, a good nostalgic trip down lanes of ‘Before Sunrise’ except it’s Hawaii and not Vienna.
Adam Sandler’s Barry brings about a reminiscence of ‘A Serious Man’, except that it should be the opposite. A grown man who’s yet to come to peace with his surroundings, one who’s dissatisfied but doesn’t know what he wants. I draw resemblances not only with character but its progression as well, not to mention the scenario that grows in synchrony with him. It’s dull when he’s dull, it’s rattled when he is – a clear visual projection. Forty five minutes into the film and you barely know what’s going on, and as you reach the hour, so much had happened. It’s always a delight when you find the film to be organic than just a dead camera depending entirely on its performers. What’s best about ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ is that it doesn’t depend on Barry, it nurtures him and gets nurtured in return.
There is a sequence where the pair of them (Barry and Lena, played by a fairly-fitting Emily Watson) are in bed and exchanging sweet nothings, which progresses ahead into viciously sexual remarks and then we hear Barry remark in his own fashionable way that “this is funny” – yes it is! Adam Sandler actually being funny, can you believe that? That’s kind of why this film took its own sweet time to grow on me. But thankfully, it could catch up, what with the tension it built and the music score that undergoes a parallel and parasitic change. I was struck by the energy, that which is captured in two phases of our hero – one in the turmoil and the other in his retaliation. And that made me wonder whether this ‘love’ is just his excuse or vice-versa. Well, I just had to wait a while to have that answered.
This is an ‘in Repair’ film – something about a man who waits for things to fall in place before he evaluates himself. Barry doesn’t speak before he’s got a woman interested in him, before he gets her hurt that he simply has to strike back; before he gets his pudding secure. There is such freshness in this film, such innocence and yet such power that I can’t help but give it to Paul Thomas Anderson and his craft. I would go ahead and call him wizard, but I don’t know for sure if this is just his experiment or his best yet. A subtle mix of dark comedy and drama, with a toast of sheer physical energy – magic.
Well, at least it makes the blot of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s exciting but unwarranted cameo disappear.