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Punch-Drunk Love

Paul Thomas Anderson has become quite popular recently, with his latest film - There Will Be Blood - being hailed as one of the greatest films of the past decade. I politely disagree with the statement, however, because, while it is great, the film suffers from tremendous issues regarding its pacing. However, that's a topic for another time. Punch-Drunk Love, one of Anderson's earlier films, is actually a much better film and has plenty to offer.

The film follows Barry Egan, a lonely man with a short temper and borderline mental illness, as he tries to go through his depressing life. Nagged and ridiculed by his seven sisters, embarrassed of his toilet plunger company, and blackmailed by a sex-hotline scammer, Barry's life seems to be spiraling out of control. However, things begin to change after Barry meets Lena, a co-worker of his sisters' who grows to love Barry's company.

First off, let me say how amazed I was by Adam Sandler's performance in this film. Sandler's usually limited to moronic comedies and, thus, he plays moronic characters. In Punch-Drunk Love, however, Sandler truly shines as the character of Barry Egan. It's almost a parody of his usual characters, only this time the "man-boy" persona isn't comedic here. It's quite serious, as the emotionally-stress and socially awkwardness of his character proves. It's really a delight to see Sandler become this fascinating character here, and I truly wish Sandler realizes how much talent he has soon.

The characters of the film are all fantastic. Instead of being led around by a plot, these characters act of their own free will, and it shows with the unpredictability of the events portrayed. Emily Watson, who plays Lena, is also fantastic in her role. In many ways, she and Barry are quite different. Whereas Barry has quite a temper, Lena is patient, kind, and loving. On the other hand, the two are also similar in many ways. Both are stressed, socially awkward, and quite reserved. Either way, these two characters are so well-developed and interesting, to the point where we as an audience WANT to see them end up together, unlike many other pointless romance/romantic comedy films.

The pacing is also quite fantastic, never rushing with its slow and deliberate pace. It takes its time letting us get to know these characters, letting us get to like them despite their flaws, etc. If I dare say so, the pacing - plus the visual style - is almost Kubrick-ian. Though it's definitely not as deep as a Kubrick film, the pacing, the atmosphere, and the visuals are all indicators that Kubrick was, at least, a heavy influence on Anderson's work.

There's little to not love in this film. Though the antagonists are significantly weaker characters than the rest of the cast, this film has a lot to offer. Great and likable characters, a lovingly slow pace, and fantastic visuals, Punch-Drunk Love is a gem that is not to be missed.





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