Five years before his Oscar-winning triumph with 2007’s remarkable There Will Be Blood, director Paul Thomas Anderson pulled off what I reckon is an equally remarkable coup – he coaxed a decent performance from Adam Sandler in his offbeat romantic comedy Punch-Drunk Love.
Sandler’s small-time businessman Barry Egan is yet another of his trademark passive-aggressive losers – and not too far removed from the arrested adolescents he’d played in such dross as Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison or Big Daddy. Yet Anderson got him to dig far deeper than his usual shtick to create a psychologically acute and strangely affecting character.
Sandler’s Egan is painfully introverted, emotionally bullied by his seven sisters and prone to erupt now and then into violent anger. But to the accompaniment of Jon Brion‘s delightfully quirky score, which sets a wheezing harmonium against tinkling percussion, and luscious photography inspired by 1940s MGM musicals, he finds an unexpected soul mate in Emily Watson‘s globe-trotting executive.
Punch-Drunk Love isn’t your conventional Hollywood rom-com – not that you’d have expected anything run-of-the-mill back in 2002 from the director of Boogie Nights and Magnolia. This is a romance in which the lovers exchange such endearments as ‘Your face is so adorable, I’d like to scoop out your eyes and eat them’. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but give Punch-Drunk Love a chance and you may find that Anderson and his cast have something novel to say about the derangement of romantic love.
Released on 17th May.