Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5   User Rating 3 out of 5
Punch-Drunk Love (2003)

Bedfellows don't come much more unlikely than Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam Sandler.

One, a precocious writer-director whose probing of the human condition produced the masterpiece "Magnolia". The other a critically reviled slapstick star who spends most of his movies tripping over his own brow (it's so damn low).

Yet the pairing sparks for this romantic comedy - even if the original, off-kilter result is about as far from "Sleepless in Seattle" as Heather Graham is from talent.

Sandler is Barry Egan, an eccentric small-business man with anger 'issues', who combats loneliness one night by ringing a phone sex line. But the operation's bent, and soon he's dodging blackmailers, while incompetently courting the kooky Lena Leonard (Emily Watson).

Anderson's movie could be one part of a multi-stranded, "Magnolia"-style epic - it certainly includes a couple of unexplained incidents (a car crash, an abandoned harmonium) that could conjoin with other bizarre tales.

Instead the director focuses on a hyper-real celebration of true love - with the pulse of infatuation represented through an aggressively loud, discordant soundtrack and the occasional appearance of kaleidoscopic inserts.

It's peculiar, unpredictable and engrossing - a fractured, unconventional love story shot as an old-school, Technicolor romance.

Watson is effervescent, but it's Sandler's movie. Egan shares the violence of the star's usual dumbass screen persona, but here it's an expression of an urge to feel, to be shocked out of his humdrum existence. It's the same sentiment that fuelled the scrap-happy characters in David Fincher's "Fight Club".

Sandler defies conventional wisdom with an intelligent, soulful, pained-behind-the-eyes performance - a portrait of disconnected modern man ("I don't know if there is anything wrong because I don't know how other people are. Sometimes I cry a lot for no reason").

"Punch-Drunk Love" is both funny and moving - profoundly odd, but also oddly profound. Go see.

"Punch-Drunk Love" opens in UK cinemas on Friday 7th February 2003.

End Credits

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzmán, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Lisa Spector

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Length: 95 minutes

Cinema: 07 February 2003

Country: USA

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