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Wick's Review

Created Sep 19, 2012 11:26PM PST • Edited Mar 26, 2015 07:24AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    At first blush, Punch-Drunk Love presents as merely a high-toned Adam Sandler movie. But hold on Sandler haters, this movie is celebrated by people who wouldn’t be caught dead watching Happy Gilmore. Why? Because it’s a great Hollywood romance, a sympathetic study of emotional disturbance and a uniquely brilliant film. At its cinematically flamboyant best, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s discordant masterpiece caused me to exclaim such a film! More on that in the Film commentary.

    Adam Sandler plays an emotionally disturbed guy who allows a determined woman to bring love into his life. Together, he and Emily Watson engage in the great Hollywood-ized movie kiss depicted in the poster.

    It’s hard to blame Sandler’s character for being emotionally disturbed, given that he’s the only brother amongst seven siblings. Yep, six sisters and they’re doozies, like a pack of postmodern harpies. They emotionally punch him while he’s up and while he’s down, with him internalizing the abuse until he acts out against inanimate objects. The raging and some obsessive-compulsive behavior mark him as obviously troubled, a reality that his self-centered sisters ignore, even though they’re all adults living in our therapeutically-attuned age. Surreal, but brilliant.

    Notwithstanding that he so needs to be under psychiatric care, he’s a successful small businessman and well dressed to boot. Thus the movie is also about the choices women make, here with a lovely and successful lady pursuing a good but infantile, unstable and potentially dangerous man. Only in the movies?

    In any case, Punch-Drunk Love should be on everyone’s favorite viewing list. Romantic and brilliant movies that are both funny and insightful are movies to love, or should be anyway.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    Adam Sandler plays a recognizable Sandlerian man-child and a somewhat tragic one at that, but he carries himself with a notable stillness, an effect heightened by Anderson framing him in classic moviestar closeups. In short, he’s gone from SNL nebbish to bona fide moviestar. That said, the fact that he’s playing a familiar role means he doesn’t have to stretch. Rather he tones down his usual schtick to great effect.

    Emily Watson delivers a wonderfully nuanced performance as a successful woman willing to go out on a limb for love. She too is a revelation, since we don’t associate her with romantically lovely roles.

    Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn’t come across as the complete asskicker that his role demands. Given his usual excellence in general and in P.T. Anderson movies in particular (e.g., The Master), call this a surprise.

    The three brothers who do his dirty work are played by three brothers: David, Nathan and Jimmy Stevens. Typecasting?

    The seven sisters who torment Sandler’s characters are like postmodern harpies. Here are five of them:

    • Mary Lynn Rajskub gets the most screentime as the sister “closest” to Sandler, notwithstanding her adolescently self-centered cruelty towards him. Rajskub plays tart extremely well, as she proved in 24.
    • Lisa Spector & Nicole Gelbard & Mia Weinberg & Karen Hermelin play four more.

    Undercard notables:

    • Robert Smigel, the SNL writer and filmmaker, as a brother-in-law put in a tough position.
    • Luis Guzmán, always a welcome sight, as Sandler’s right hand man.
  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Really Great 4.5
  7. Male Costars Good 3.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Paul Thomas Anderson’s film brilliantly mixes surrealism with a study of postmodern dissociated living. How better to do that than to focus on an emotionally disturbed guy who nonetheless is an outward success in life. Thus Chaplinesque trips to the supermarket get intermixed with psychedelic scene transitions. And heavy objects keep getting dropped, disturbances of normal reality that barely distract Sandlerian composure. Brilliant.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Great 4.0

    Names – first or last – often don’t comport with the characters. Is this intentional or a problem with the casting or the script?

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    He Needs Me – the Harry Nielson song from Popeye performed by Shelley Duvall gets perfectly used here.

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Much of the film is shot in and around the soulless prefab environs of L.A., with occasional sojourns to a nondescript furniture store in Utah. These stark commercial locations create perfect settings for the postmodern story that takes place in them.

    The one outlier is a brief sojourn to the Mandarin Hotel on Waikiki Beach. Leave it to Hollywood to place part of the movie in such an extremely luxurious setting.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.2

    An emotionally disturbed guy lashes out in ways that will be sadly familiar to those who have seen such behavior in their own families or lives.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.6
  16. Violence Fierce 2.3
  17. Rudeness Profane 2.6
  18. Glib 1.8

    Aside from the glibness and surrealism, some things ring true about emotional disturbance. For instance, the emotionally disturbed guy doesn’t remember his rages after they’re over.

  19. Circumstantial Surreal 2.2
  20. Biological Glib 1.7
  21. Physical Glib 1.4


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Sep 19, 2012 11:30PM

Regarding Wick’s Review
Had to watch this P.T. Anderson masterpiece in prep for what is said to be his new masterpiece opening this weekend, The Master.