Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Punch Drunk Love

MPAA Rating: R for strong language including a scene of sexual dialogue

Reviewed by: Megan Basham
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Romance Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
2002
Emily Watson and Adam Sandler in “Punch Drunk Love”

Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Luis Guzmán, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mary Lynn Rajskub | Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson | Produced by: Joanne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Lupi | Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson | Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Knowing this was a Paul Thomas Anderson film, the writer/director of such distinct and often offensive movies as “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”, I did have some idea what I was getting into. But, like many this weekend, my curiosity to see Adam Sandler in a serious role, for which he is receiving surprisingly positive notices, was enough to pull me into the theater.

First things first: Anderson more than lives up to his raunchy reputation in “Punch Drunk Love”—the language alone is enough to warrant its “R” rating. Also, though much lighter than his previous films, probably only about 10 percent of your average, Christian audience would enjoy Punch Drunk Love’s peculiar humor and stilted love story. That said, I have to admit I am one of them.

Adam Sandler delivers a gripping performance as Barry Egan, a self-employed businessman whose entrepreneurial status does nothing to improve his sense of self worth. Of course, it doesn’t help that his seven sisters apparently think it’s their mission in life to belittle their brother whenever possible. In a hilarious and touching opening scene, each sister interrupts Barry at work to pressure him to attend a family party that evening. Not one seems to realize that her constant insults could be the reason he is reluctant to show up.

A lifetime of this abuse has made Barry into an insecure mass of psychoses, incapable of taking any action, save for temper tantrums and crying jags. Thankfully, love, in the form of winsome, wide-eyed Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), finds him and begins to heal his wounds. One small problem though, just as Barry finds love, an extortionist phone-sex worker finds him.

Anderson wrote his off-beat script around Sandler, brilliantly using Sandler’s explosive humor in films like “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore” to cast an eerie shadow over the story. Unlike the aforementioned films, here his violent outbursts have consequences. In fact, they are evidence of a deeply troubled, hurting individual. Sandler’s talent is revealed in his ability to take an array of idiosyncrasies (Barry hoards pudding cups and spends the entire film in a shockingly bright blue suit) and create a character the audience truly cares about.

Strange as Barry is, we can all relate to family members bringing up stories we’d rather forget, and having to swallow our hurt and smile at family functions. If nothing else, this movie caused me to consider the small, callous ways I probably injure my own siblings.

I admire “Punch Drunk Love” for its originality and humor. Anderson achieves an all too rare feat, creating an illuminating atmosphere that is entirely unique, and yet (at least for me) entirely accessible. But that language. I have seen films where the swearing seemed authentic, if not desired. The problem with “Punch Drunk Love” is I just don’t believe every character in the film would speak this way. I have many non-Christian friends and acquaintances, and none of them drops the f-bomb in every sentence. So I have hard time believing all seven sisters and Barry’s sweet, understanding girlfriend would as well. It’s been said so often by Christian media reviewers that it’s become a cliché, but it really is a shame this film is marred by so many, frankly distracting, obscenities. For all its creativity and insight, let’s just say I won’t be recommending this one to my mother.

Viewer Comments
Negative—I was so happy we didn’t make the mistake of taking our sleeping daughter to this film. My wife had heard a review about this movie earlier that morning on a local Radio station deeming this movie as Adam Sandler’s Best work. He really did a good job at the role he was given but the story line in this was horrible in my opinion. This movie had extreme profanity, violence, and hovered over sexual overtones throughout. Seeing this film was the only time I can ever recall where I felt so offended that I wanted to leave and complain to the management.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 4]
—Chris C., age 31
Positive—PT Anderson’s created yet another beautiful piece of art in Punch-Drunk Love. The performances from Sandler, Watson, and Hoffman (a favorite of mine who always steals the show) are remarkable, full of passion and reality. Yes, swirling colors fill the screen for no reason. Yes, the plot is based upon Barry’s one mistake of a phone call. And yes, the movie is different than anything else you may have seen. It did not appear low-budget, it was simply different than people were expecting. This is a film for film lovers, people who love movies for their art. I just hope Adam Sandler can continue making movies this amazing. I look forward to Anderson’s next project.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Donna, age 20
Negative—This was absolutely the worst movie I have ever seen. Not just the worst Adam Sandler movie I have ever seen, but the worst out of all movies. It seemed very low budget to say the least. There hardly seemed to be a plot, but what little plot it had was based on a single call he made to a phone sex line. Just when you thought the movie was going to get better as they were developing a scene, the movie would take a different turn and skip to another scene. Several times throughout the movie and for no apparent reason, the screen filled with swirling colors and then continued on with the movie. I not only felt like I wasted my money going to see this movie, but my husband and I wasted an evening that could have been much better spent at home with our kids.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 1]
—Pam Dill, age 29
Positive—This is by far the best Adam Sandler movie ever. I just recently saw “Mr. Deeds” and was disappointed by the way it died at the end. Of course, “Mr. Deeds” wasn’t directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. “Punch Drunk Love” has so much life in it, and that is a real treat at the movies. We got to see so many interesting people. We got to know them, understand them, and we cared about them. The scene where Adam Sandler runs through the apartment building looking for the Emily Watson character and then he finally finds her is so very quirky, and is touching in a strange way, too. I really felt a strong connection to this movie, I felt involved.

And let’s not forget Philip Seymour Hoffman, who did a great job with a smaller part. He made that part feel bigger than it really was. I really didn’t notice very much language at all, except in one scene in which Sandler is screaming at his sister on the phone, and you know, to me, it felt almost warranted. His character, Barry Egan, had been bottling up those emotions for so long, and they just couldn’t be contained any more. The abuse had gone on too long.

“Punch Drunk Love” is a fabulous film, full of energy and life, overflowing with great characters. Plus, there are a lot of scenes of extended takes, not cutting away, and for some reason, I felt very proud of Adam Sandler. He did a great job, and I loved this movie. What a weird, weird year it would be if both Adam Sandler and Eminem get Oscar nominations!
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Jason Eaken, age 19
Movie Critics
…not a movie traditional Sandler fans are going to enjoy… The rhythm is slow, the jokes are more on the adult level, and it’s not a movie I would normally endorse because of the language. But, there was something about this story that I liked…
—Holly McClure, Crosswalk
…this poignant romance is flawed with premarital sex, frequent obscenity and violent outbursts…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
harsh, unengaging tale whose comic subtext is as flat as the obtrusive music track is loud…
—Tidings Online
…at least 32 ‘f’ words, other expletives and colorful phrases…
—ScreenIt!
Comments from young people
Positive—“Punch Drunk Love” was by far the greatest romance comedy I have ever seen. Paul Anderson (the director of the movie) is a genius and a gift to the movie screen. The life and energy of the movie was unlike anything I had ever seen before. You really got to know Adam Sandler’s character well and see the reasoning behind his almost insane outbursts, but I won’t tell too much, I might give something away. The beginning of the movie has you in a state of confusion and disbelief that you’re sure will eventual be explained later on in the movie, but no, it won’t. That’s just how the movie is, you’re supposed to be confused, because the characters themselves are confused, that’s the sheer beauty of it.

The movie draws you in to feel say see what the people characters themselves see. I loved it but would advise against younger viewers.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 5]
—Kyle, age 17