From his beginnings with “Boogie Nights” (1997) and “Magnolia” (1999) to his more recent films like “The Master” (2012) and “Phantom Thread” (2017), Paul Thomas Anderson has established himself as one of the greatest working writer-directors today. With eight well-deserved Oscar nominations, there’s just no one else doing it like him; his consistent creation of a central character that audiences want to know and understand is incredible, and his 2002 feature “Punch-Drunk Love” starring Adam Sandler is no exception.
At its heart, “Punch-Drunk Love” is a story about a regular guy named Barry Egan. From the first shots of the film, Barry is established as a wallflower–things kind of happen to him, rather than him making them happen for himself. He’s unstable and anxious, and he desperately wants something to come along and change his life. And then, voilà: enter Lena (played by Emily Watson). Things just spiral from there, with seemingly no end to the madness that he experiences.
The film is definitely an entertaining watch as Sandler pulls off the awkward yet explosively angry Barry with ease. If you really pay attention to the framing, blocking, camera movements, and especially the extraordinary use of color (in both the costuming and the set design and how they work together), you’ll definitely understand why PTA’s considered such a genius in the film world.
Overall, the plot of “Punch-Drunk Love” is definitely secondary to the character development and motivations, but it’s like I said before: this is what’s magical about PTA’s films. I think it’s precisely his “regularness” that’s intriguing about Barry. We can all see parts of ourselves in him.
Filmnetic Grade: A
Are you excited about Paul Thomas Anderson’s new untitled feature starring Bradley Cooper? I know I am! Leave your thoughts on “Punch-Drunk Love” or any of PTA’s other films down below (“There Will Be Blood” is my personal favorite, but I’m sure that’s not too controversial an opinion).