Until today, I firmly believed I would, proudly, never experience one of the infamous ‘Adam Sandler movies’. But if all ‘Adam Sandler movies’ are like Punch Drunk Love, I won’t say no to giving them a go (okay, maybe not Grown Ups…). My default dislike for the man was initially brought on by social peer pressure, being flooded with Sandler-hate and near tangible, resent-ridden reviews of his films. Well, I can now say this irrational animosity has been dutifully re-assessed. His performance as sweet, shy, Barry Eagan brought light to his genuine acting skills; skills which have been avalanched by what I can only describe as an acquired taste in role choices.
Now onto the film.
The story follows Sandler as manager of an independent business selling the beauties that are novelty toilet plungers. With what becomes his trademark blue suit and crew cut hair, he is, what I would call, a mild introvert: happy to work and interact with colleagues but running for the hills when posed with a, ahem, family gathering. One day, a woman appears outside his warehouse: pretty, friendly and English. What seems like an innocent encounter develops into something altogether more life-changing. All this weaves between some irritatingly good acting from the legend that is Philip Seymour Hoffman – rest in peace oh lord of screen presence – and strange colour blotch interludes (watch it, you’ll know what I mean).
The sporadic score can get a bit unnerving, building to dangerous levels of annoyance in some scenes. But it did make me appreciate the moments of silence – the craved for calm that inevitably marked the beginning of the storm (or more twitchy music). It made me focus in on the dialogue and body language, as if going from deaf to auditory bliss in a matter of seconds. Though, I can see how the sharpness of each beat brings the audience deeper into Barry’s head, creating an almost soundscape of his inner, often overwhelming thoughts; the pressure too much to take so exploding into a mess of percussion and unidentifiable twangs.
The film does particularly shine in its moments of unexpected viewer delight. For instance, before watching Punch Drunk Love, I never realised how excited I could get over a lighting change in a single shot (oh man). The technical precision is something to savour, from the matching of suit and wall colour to elegantly framed silhouttes (a cinematography geek’s production paradise).
If you watch one Adam Sandler film, make it Punch Drunk Love. It may take time to warm to the clunkiness, but hey, when you grow into a movie as you’re watching, it’s all the more rewarding.