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Overall Rating
3.91

Awesome50.25%
Worth A Look: 16.75%
Average: 16.75%
Pretty Bad: 6.6%
Total Crap: 9.64%

12 reviews, 125 user ratings


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Punch-Drunk Love
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by Rob Gonsalves

"PTA swings for the fences again and strikes out."
3 stars

In "Punch-Drunk Love," writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia") uses Adam Sandler as a sort of found object of pathos and hostility.

As Barry Egan, a sad sack running a threadbare California business, Sandler shrinks from people like an amoeba recoiling from a drop of cold water. Barry is also given to apocalyptic bursts of rage, which we can trace back to his seven sisters and their cavalierly sadistic, meant-to-be-loving treatment of him. The movie is devoted to Barry's mercurial moods -- yearning and loathing combined in a passive-aggressive ball -- and some of the result is dazzling, and alive in a way few other movies are. Yet for all that, I couldn't wait for it to be over.

Anderson's 188-minute Magnolia tested the patience (and bladders) of many who endured it; this time, the eager young maestro set himself a 97-minute ceiling. But it's clear by now that whatever characterization skill Anderson showed in his lean, mean debut, 1997's Hard Eight, was a fluke. Barry is no more or less than his resentment and need -- the latter underscored by Anderson's frequent use of "He Needs Me," sung by Shelley Duvall's Olive Oyl in Robert Altman's Popeye. Okay, we get it: if Hard Eight was Anderson's riff on Altman's California Split, Boogie Nights was his Nashville, and Magnolia was his Short Cuts, then Punch-Drunk Love -- with its lunkheaded hero and his tremulous lady love, familial tension, and obsession with a food product (in Barry's case, pudding he buys by the gross to get frequent-flyer miles) -- must be Anderson's Popeye. Would this filmmaker have anything to say had Robert Altman never been born?

Barry falls in love with Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), who does some sort of work alongside one of Barry's meddling sisters, and who wanted to meet him based on having seen a family photo of him with his dread siblings. What does she see in him? He offers nothing except need. But need isn't love, or vice versa, and the desire to be needed is also not love. There is no evidence that these two specific people belong together, and Emily Watson, in the latest in a string of drastically underwritten roles, isn't given the material to make us see why Barry would be special to her. We understand why she's special to him -- she's attractive, and shows attraction towards him -- but this match seems awfully one-sided. There isn't even a scene in which Lena is charmed by one of Barry's personality quirks.

As usual, Anderson shovels in details he thinks are cool, whether or not they belong in the movie. A subplot in which Barry gets ripped off by a phone-sex operator is exceedingly tiresome, though it gives Anderson a reason to put Philip Seymour Hoffman (as the scuzzy boss behind the phone-sex scam operation -- the film's Bluto, if you will) in the film, and it activates Barry's rage gratifyingly a couple of times. It should be said that the half-serious Oscar buzz surrounding Sandler at the time shouldn't even have been half-serious; he does nothing here he hasn't done before, even in his quiet, somber moments when he lets his voice go limp and passive. He gave a more fully-rounded performance in The Wedding Singer, where he not only had a basic, solid script to work from but better dialogue and room to be funny. Then again, The Wedding Singer wasn't directed by Paul Thomas Anderson the Critics' Darling.

Anderson has said he wanted to make an Adam Sandler movie, but Punch-Drunk Love is no more an Adam Sandler movie than The Spanish Prisoner -- which used its journeyman comedian to similar dissonant effect -- was a Steve Martin movie. It is, as the ads say, "a P.T. Anderson Picture." As always, Anderson does things no one else is doing (that's not to say no one else has ever done them), and his ardor and enthusiasm keep you watching. But what he puts onscreen is increasingly unengaging.

Anderson is obviously in punch-drunk love with making movies; he has also just as obviously forgotten -- other than for his own pleasure -- why, exactly, he makes them.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6201&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/27/06 12:29:19
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User Comments

8/02/14 rxnpnygqod USA 4 stars
3/02/14 josie cotton is a goddess Brilliant movie! Sandler is terrific! 5 stars
1/29/10 dlenmnodth DmVWDJ 3 stars
10/02/09 david jensen It took a 2nd viewing for me, but this film catapulted itself from ok- to my favorite ever 5 stars
7/23/09 the dork knight Well, the movie makes no sense but its loser protagonist is all-too familiar to some of us 3 stars
6/30/09 Duffy Johnson Terrible...misfires on all levels. Had I seen it in a theatre I may have walked out 1 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner Sandler makes some great films! 5 stars
7/30/08 the dork knight I didn't quite get it. But the ending was original 3 stars
5/24/08 PAUL SHORTT GIMMICKS IN SEARCH OF A HEART & A SOUL 1 stars
5/04/08 Justin If you hate this film the go on and make a better one and be more acclaimed then Anderson 5 stars
5/24/07 ES The music is horrific but the story and the characters are perfect 4 stars
5/02/07 nigel unwatchable 1 stars
1/15/07 jeannie karlsen Adam Sandler is so much better in roles like this. He's shockingly brilliant. 5 stars
12/11/06 David Meyerhoff A cinematic masterpiece with heart...captures what true love is with all its imperfections. 5 stars
5/02/06 Anthony Feor An Adam Sandlar movie where he is calm most of the time, I know, im surprised too 4 stars
3/19/06 MP Bartley A real grower. Weird at first, its greatness slowly dawns on you. 4 stars
2/11/06 Eric Evans Brilliant! A love story that makes one FEEL the romance, love, and animal attraction. 5 stars
2/11/06 Eric Evans PTA proves that his consummate style has the breadth to build an awesome oeuvre. 5 stars
1/04/06 Dick Nora Ephron + Acid + Camera = PDL. Interesting, fun & worth several viewings. 4 stars
12/29/05 R.W.Welch Flaky but inventive. Has a certain style to it. 4 stars
12/24/05 Nate Great movie. Too bad most Sandler fans will think Billy Madison is better. 5 stars
12/01/05 Sophie Fantastique 5 stars
8/03/05 ALDO People who don't like this movie don't get it, and that's okay. I don't get Dave Matthews 5 stars
6/18/05 K. Sear After the brilliance of Magnolia, I was sorely disappointed with this. 1 stars
6/05/05 Charlene Javier Completely overrated. 3 stars
6/04/05 Mike Jozic I'm not a big Adam Sandler or P.T. Anderson fan and I was mesmerized by PDL. 4 stars
6/01/05 Dan What the FUCK is wrong with YOU PEOPLE You think you get something out of this shit! My god 1 stars
5/27/05 Jake Adam Sandler gives the best performance of career in a great and quirky film. 5 stars
3/08/05 Hydrian The first half is slow moving, but otherwise not bad. 3 stars
2/22/05 ELI Sandler should make more movies like this! 5 stars
12/13/04 Jim Oddly fascinating, like a train wreck or natural disaster. Sandler can act, who knew? 4 stars
9/22/04 Johnno It's such a beautiful movie.I feel the urge to smash the f#cke* thing with a sledgehammer. 5 stars
9/13/04 Juggalo FUckin awesome Sandler is AMAZING! 5 stars
9/13/04 chris. sigh. shut the fuck up. 5 stars
8/16/04 Rusty Klichowicz David Hollands review of this oone is based on ignorance 3 stars
7/21/04 dropdead Very insightful. Thoroughly enjoyed this film. 5 stars
6/29/04 Monster W. Kung 'Bobby Fisher' first learn how to spell, you dumbass. 1 stars
6/14/04 MyGreenBed Visually very pleasing, conceptually interesting, acting is ok. Hideous Sandler fight bit. 3 stars
6/09/04 Ama Simard sucks almost as bad as magnolia 1 stars
5/24/04 DM darkofnight, I have yet to see you give a favorable review - is there a weed up your ass? 4 stars
5/23/04 Butterbean New angle at a love story. "He needs me" from Popeye was a nice touch. 3 stars
5/11/04 the bride Monster W. Kung you're a total fuckwit. You obviously haven't a clue what a decent film is. 5 stars
5/08/04 staffy i liked this film alot, but found the soundtrack a bit loud! dvd extras r hypnotic. 4 stars
5/06/04 J.Peckerfoot what great film.not telling my friends about it,they just wouldnt understand.sandler, almos 5 stars
5/06/04 Bobby Fisher INSIGHTFULL REVIEW MONSTER, genius, suddenly sandler is loved again 5 stars
3/24/04 George Jung Perfect. 5 stars
3/17/04 Holly Beeman If you don't like this movie, it's probably because you don't get it. Sandler can -act-! 5 stars
3/05/04 Monster W. Kung Horrible. Anderson sucks balls. 1 stars
2/23/04 Naturezrevenge *I* thought that this movie was a work of cinematic genius.Subtle and wonky. Not bad at all 5 stars
2/16/04 jdogg This critic sucks! He had no intention of giving this a fair viewing! What an asshole! 4 stars
2/16/04 the gourd This movie sucks, but the guy who reviewed this is a fucking moron. Go kill yourself. 2 stars
2/15/04 Lord Chu Why is darkofknight reviewing for this site? It ruins my day just to know he exists. 5 stars
2/15/04 Jack Sommersby Sandler is first-rate, but direction is too heavy-handed & overdeliberate. Grating stuff. 2 stars
1/23/04 Chloe Brody Nice to see Adam Sandler acting normal for a change! Odd couple, but still totally sweet! 4 stars
1/10/04 joekraw a breathtaking masterpiece for people who understand what cinema truly is 5 stars
12/14/03 Agent Sands Possibly better than "Magnolia." Sandler's proved himself talented. This is a winner! 5 stars
11/27/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng Terrific movie. Fuck all y'all who hate this movie. I love it! Adam Sandler can act. 5 stars
11/22/03 Phil M. Aficionado Unique/unconventional; bittersweet; great role for Sandler (whom I do not like, generally) 4 stars
11/13/03 Daniel Stockman This movie was too caught up in bullshit pishy posh unrealistic crap, made no sense at all. 1 stars
11/10/03 Jonathan P Your reviewer had a brain fart the day he wrote his review. Too bad for him. 4 stars
10/14/03 Erik Van Sant Perfect. Sandler is outstanding. It's hard to explain how this movie makes you feel. 5 stars
10/02/03 Nate Ubowski Splendid 5 stars
8/17/03 barry casting.sandler.brilliant.attempt.to.target.an.audience.that.NEEDS.to.get.it.but.they.don't 5 stars
8/17/03 Ingo What a intense movie that is - have to see it a couple more times... 5 stars
8/13/03 Zel Hilarious- Unless you think you are too witty or manly to enjoy this twisted love story. 5 stars
8/10/03 Al Worse than FREEDY GOT FINGERED. Everyone involved should seek theropy. 1 stars
8/09/03 josh fantastic 5 stars
8/09/03 john anderson Yet another critic leaps upon the Paul Thomas Anderson bandwagon. This film is atrocious. 1 stars
7/31/03 Loraan Things happen without explanation... just go with it. Great ride! 5 stars
7/29/03 greensweater stylistic but tedious, mildly wierd 3 stars
7/17/03 Marc This Movie sucked. I tried to get into the movie, but couldn't. Waste of money to rent.:( 1 stars
7/14/03 skye magnolia it ain't. by a LONG shot. but i'm glad many of you were able to enjoy it. not me. 1 stars
7/12/03 HAROLD TOBMAN A riveting demonstation of our ability to be reborn through the power of love - brilliant 5 stars
7/10/03 Dan This movie was TOTAL SHIT!!!! 1 stars
7/06/03 sharon huh what...kinda lame at first but liked it when he kicked the brothers asses!!!go barry 3 stars
7/02/03 Flop I honestly don't get it. Where was the story? And whats with the piano? 2 stars
7/02/03 Belle This was absolutely horrible... too many loose ends 1 stars
7/01/03 dsplash33 how can you bash this movie? assholes, go watch 2 fast 2 furious, one dimensional losers 5 stars
7/01/03 Dag Great movie. Some of these people below are just idiots..... 5 stars
6/22/03 Dead_duck A pile of shit. No ending. No plot. No chemistry. Paul, find a new job. 1 stars
6/12/03 Joe Excellent movie....can totally relate to Egan. 5 stars
6/11/03 Albie Great. The movie made me squirm for Sandler's character. 5 stars
5/25/03 John40 best film of 2002 5 stars
5/22/03 Kris I do not get it and I do not get Sandler. 3 stars
5/22/03 monkeyman 4 words... ADAM SANDLER SUX ASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
5/06/03 Pagey Indulgent direction, distracting score, irritating characters. 2 stars
4/24/03 Elendil Wow, I can't believe that Sandler didn't urinate on anything. 5 stars
4/22/03 Jim the movie geek One joke, implausible story, no star chemistry, black comedy that misses! 2 stars
4/22/03 Aiken Drum Its Ok, but not great. Weird for the sake of being weird which doesn't work imo. 4 stars
4/19/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik weird and wonderful 5 stars
4/09/03 Jim Renwick Good movie & worth seeing 4 stars
4/07/03 rik dont get it 2 stars
3/27/03 Allison Lafferty There are likeable characters; there are likeable freaky chars.; these mostly just freaky. 3 stars
3/22/03 mattski a really edgy off the wall film that works. comedy with very sharp edges 5 stars
3/22/03 Maegs I simply loved this movie 4 stars
3/20/03 Tiffany Thunderhurst Refreshing little not-all-that-believable diversion; nothing extremely special. 4 stars
3/18/03 Kyle Pretty good, exactly what I was expecting. 4 stars
3/05/03 Andrew Carden Cute Little Dramedy With Great Performances. 5 stars
2/22/03 Jon hilariously sadly funny 5 stars
1/25/03 Goofy Maxwell Not so absurd really, this must be the way Punch & Judy hooked up. 5 stars
11/27/02 Zack W. Young Greatest movie ever made, no exxageration 5 stars
11/26/02 Robert Shelby One of the best originals ever made. Anderson's view is like nothing on this planet, (true) 5 stars
11/26/02 marzio arigoni@rtsi.ch Nice movie, it deserved a price in Cannes, where I saw it. A surprise! 4 stars
11/25/02 Sid Vicious Great movie... not for the weak of mind... 5 stars
11/21/02 Anarchy Azmi STEVE is gay he probably liked titanic or something....cant wait for the dvd 5 stars
11/18/02 Nicole What a bizzaro movie! 3 stars
11/10/02 Jake i loved this movie 5 stars
11/10/02 FrayLo not the greatest, but still a movie that's got something deeper to say about love... 4 stars
11/09/02 spaceworm Far too sharp to make the usual Sandler millions; will be the first of his I'll own on DVD 5 stars
11/04/02 .Choadushouse. I was surprisingly non-entertained. Felt the film was pointless. Sandler was good though. 3 stars
11/03/02 Brian PTA's no Fellini 2 stars
11/03/02 STEVE FIRST TIME I HAVE EVER WALKED OUT HALFWAY THROUGH A MOVIE! 1 stars
11/02/02 ajay I left the theatre wanting more! btw, hated Magnolia loved Boogie Nights 5 stars
10/29/02 Scott The movie's not about Emily Watson. It's about Barry Egan. Understand and appreciate 5 stars
10/29/02 jerppy Best movie I've seen in a long while. 5 stars
10/29/02 jefftucson I hated this movie. What a waste of Emily watson's talent! 1 stars
10/28/02 lucas holy shit 5 stars
10/27/02 Lisa More than just a "romantic fable"...I was challenged with other "insights" 5 stars
10/27/02 Eric fucking a 5 stars
10/26/02 apple jack best movie ever, man 5 stars
10/25/02 Anarchy Azmi damn weird...love it 5 stars
10/20/02 Jeff GoodSmith unbelieveable... I didn't know that Adam Sandler could ever achieve as much as he did. 5 stars
10/18/02 Westside Johnny This movie is pure. 5 stars
10/15/02 PT Anderson is a genius Finally someone who can control Adam Sandler's idiotic tendencies and make him a real actor 5 stars
10/13/02 "Yes the shit." Honest nice style, good talent. But nothing special. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  11-Oct-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  03-Apr-2003




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