After “Magnolia,” Director Paul Thomas Anderson decided to create a film barren of grief and overflowing with prismatic ecstasy. He went on to make “Punch-Drunk Love” — the 2002 romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler.
Like all of Anderson’s protagonists, Barry Egan (Sandler) is complex, lonesome and riddled with family issues.
The only women in Barry’s life are his seven overbearing sisters. Desperate for connection, Barry calls a sex hotline — not for sexual pleasure but to create a genuine conversation. Unfortunately, the girl Barry speaks to calls back demanding more money and threatens to blackmail Barry if he declines.
Barry’s sister Elizabeth (Mary Lynn Rajskub) introduces Barry to Lena (Emily Watson). During a romantic date with Lena, Barry does well keeping his calm until Lena mentions a humiliating story involving Barry. The fear of embarrassment begins to prevent Barry from enjoying the sensation of falling in love, a routine anyone can recognize when entering a new relationship.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays “The Mattress Man,” who manages the sex hotline Barry calls.
Upon discovering Barry’s refusal to pay more money, The Mattress Man sends a few henchmen to Barry’s home to collect payment.
This film submerges itself in humor.
From Barry’s blue suit, the harmonium and an endless supply of pudding, “Punch-Drunk Love” is alive with unconventional situations and crude wit.
A terrific thing about this movie is how Barry’s relationship with Lena doesn’t have any of the forced issues typically found in a romantic comedy. This is one of the very few romances where jealousy is completely absent.
Conflicts are widespread but the overall issue is the sex hotline scandal and having to admit that embarrassing situation to Lena.
“Punch-Drunk Love” doesn’t follow anticipated ingredients set by today’s standards. It has the colorful purity of “The Apartment” combined with the juvenile amusement of “Dr. Strangelove.”
Dig in —preferably with a creamy dose of pudding.