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TV Movie Of The Week: Punch Drunk Love

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Mark Kermode Mark Kermode | 16:26 UK time, Tuesday, 27 November 2012

This week I've chosen Paul Thomas Anderson's masterful Punch Drunk Love in which Adam Sandler shows his true, rather weird, colours...

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  • Comment number 1.

    Great choice, Mark! It's a brilliant film. I'm not a fan of Adam Sandler but the first time I saw Punch Drunk Love I was amazed. His performance is excellent and the music, as with other Paul Thomas Anderson films, seems to be a tangible part of the script. Events judder along to the beat of the soundtrack and then react to Barry Egan's fractured emotions. It's certainly very quirky, too, which is great considering how tedious your average romantic film is.

  • Comment number 2.

    The artist who was responsible for the colourful interludes in Punch Drunk Love (Jeremy Blake) committed suicide due to Scientology harassments. I know the director has publicly distanced himself from the current state of that church (in interviews he only mentions his fascination with the origins) but the shock of the death of his colleague must surely have inspired something within The Master.

  • Comment number 3.

    love this film.
    the cinematography is interesting.
    strong blues, extreme backlighting too-bright whites.
    maybe the outside world is just too much for barry.
    and really like the jon brion score ... reminiscent of his work on eternal sunshine: just the right side of quirky, enough to give it an unsettling edge.

    i guess that probably is her in the background. but i always felt that she'd kinda stalked him at the beginning. there was something too eager and forward about her whole introduction and approach to him. there's something odd about the old guy in the background too (same scene, just before) always found that a tad strange.

  • Comment number 4.

    I truly adore this film, as I do all PT Anderson's work, and I'm glad to see a critic who gets it. The use of music is extraordinary, particularly the way it ratchets up the tension during the intervals at Barry's workplace.

    Now I have to go back and watch that supermarket scene!

  • Comment number 5.

    Sadly, this film seems to be the exception that proves the rule. Adam sandler's a hack and as long as money is an incentive he will not choose art over a good payday.

  • Comment number 6.

    I've always defended Punch Drunk Love, as it's one of the few films that have made me cry. The last few frames (*spoiler alert*) when she leans on him and he silently realises that he's got a shot at a happy future is one of the most poignant little cinematic moments that just gets to me, even though very little actually happens on screen.

  • Comment number 7.

    I am a huge PTA and loved punch drunk love. I disagree with any comparison from it to the Master, however. Yes like the Master it dealt with anxieties and conflicts, but unlike it this earlier film actually engaged and enthralled you. The Master, despite opening well, great performances and looking beautiful, just unravelled into an overlong meandering irksomeness. Thanks.

  • Comment number 8.

    This is a very enjoyable film with lots of great funny moments, who can forget Sandler running up the shopping aisle with the pudding display. The only thing criticism for me is that Lena's character is weak and very much written from a young males perspective. It seems some young males who are undergoing some sort of emotional strife want a female to save them in some way, that is until said person matures and realises he has to save himself first. Very much a modern day fairy tale romance for males and probably even more enjoyable as a film if you are young and wanting to be saved by a doe-eyed female. It also got me thinking about Carry Grant films, he wasn't on the same insanity level as Sandler, but wasnt he a bumbling fool who wanted to be saved by some female.

  • Comment number 9.

    Whilst watching The Master, I did think it was quite similar to Punch Drunk Love (as well as Hard Eight) in that they're very specifically about the intriguing, complex, and kinda bizarre, but ultimately hugely engaging relationships between two characters (both of whom are trying to find the glue in each other to fix their own cracks). Punch Drunk Love is a masterpiece and is one of PTA's best films (which is saying a LOT) but I have no idea what you're talking about with the supermarket scene -- I don't have a copy of the film on me (although I do have the internet and various film streaming websites), can someone tell us the rough time-code of that scene?

  • Comment number 10.

    I absolutely love "Punch Drunk Love". The first time I saw it, which was actually last year, I found it heartwarming and gorgeous, and as many people say, hyperbole or otherwise, it is Adam Sandler's best movie.

    As far as the Popeye connections go, besides the connection with "He Needs Me", P.T. Anderson wouldn't be wrong:
    Both Barry Egan (Sandler's Character) and Popeye are both sort of loners;
    They are both bullied by large loud men to some point (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, even making the three or so scenes he is in intense, to the magnitude of "The Master", I cannot say); They both find somebody they care about and someone who cares about them, only because the people who love them are just strange enough to be their match, and both films make their heroes summon strength to protect the ones they care about.

    I'm glad I could finally participate in a Tv Movie of the Week conversation to a movie I have seen before.

  • Comment number 11.

    Neonman arn't you taking things a bit far in calling it a masterpiece? Surely a masterpiece would have every character finely tuned and well thought out with depth and for the film to actually say something worthwhile. In PDL its a relationship thats not based in reality, and the relationship is all one sided from the male perspective, as soon as her lusts dies, she'll get suffocated by his behaviour of following her all over the world. The film is basically saying that i can get rid of my desperation and frustration by hooking up with the first girl that takes an interest in me. Its a great film with great use of a score to highlight tension, but masterpiece?

  • Comment number 12.

    This is an acquired taste - quite literally. Having been seduced by the work of Anderson; i just could not become involved with Sandler's character - not one bit. This will always be Anderson's "The King Of Comedy": a film that will probably be appreciated over time. You just can not take Sandler seriously - Yes, he has taken his dramatic chops to great lengths with, "Spanglish" and "Reign On Me", but then Sandler will always be pigoen-holed by his puerile buffoonery that will always overcast his dramatic capabilities. Anderson has a flare for the ecentric with his characters - as adroitly defined with Joaquin Phoenix's character in "The Master". Punch-Drunk love will, and always will be, Punch-Drunk.

  • Comment number 13.


    The Master does have a plot! Freddie comes out of WWII and is a lost soul, with physical and psychological problems. He meets a charismatic leader who takes a shine to him because of his ability to make drinks and because he sees something of himself in him. The Master wants to help Freddie overcome his problems and he becomes his guinea pig for 'processing'. Freddie in turn works for the Master and kind of becomes his muscle, fighting people who disagree with the Master's Cause. Through 'processing', Freddie's past is revealed and it seems to help him momentarily, but he still drinks and gets into trouble. The Master moves to England and he and Freddie choose to go their separate ways....isn't that a plot?!

    The Master may be my favourite PTA film. It made me understand why people might choose to follow Scientology, the 'processing' scenes definitely made me curious. I love Punch Drunk Love, but I think The Master is more closely connected to There Will Be Blood, both thematically and stylistically. And I saw The Master in 70mm and thought it looked fantastic.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hate Adam this film. In some ways, I'm pleased that Sandler is dreadful in everything else he has done, as it means that Punch Drunk Love can stand alone as a beacon of light amongst a cold, dark forest full of stinkers.

  • Comment number 15.

    The figure in the background (which clearly is her due to the use of her red clothing) is very much a representation for Paul Thomas anderson's work, especially there will be blood, because like the theme of war in the middle east (in TWBB) the red figure in the background is (as i believe you mr kermode said) there if you want to see it but does not detract from the experience if you don't notice it. Incidentally, PDL is my second favourite paul thomas anderson film, (seconded by there will be blood) and mark you never seem to flag up there will be blood as a favourite of yours, is this fair to say?

  • Comment number 16.

    I see the similarity between Punch-Drunk Love and The Master (which, for me, is the best film of the year), definitely, but I wouldn't say that the latter is a companion piece to the former. Tonally, stylistically, and thematically, it's more similar to There Will Be Blood; thus, I consider it a companion piece to it instead.

    As for Punch-Drunk Love, like most of Anderson's films (including the aforementioned), it truly is a masterpiece. The first time I saw it, all I knew of it was from the trailer, and I was frankly breathless by the time the credits rolled. It was as if I'd just woken from a dream. It put such a smile on my face, I'd go as far as to call it a feel-good film for cinefiles. It's that impeccably crafted. Also, for once, Adam Sandler is not only oddly funny but easy to sympathize with. That's right, in this film, he actually gives a performance of depths!

  • Comment number 17.

    Its very strange, which with me is always a major attraction. Its totally unpredictable which again is always a big plus. Sandler is as strange as the film, which means I like his performance because hes nothing like Adam Sandler. The sound effects do seriously grate at times but thats a description of his mental anguish. It feels like a Kubrick film in many of the shots. Kubrick would have loved it and maybe been a little jealous.

  • Comment number 18.

    Like most others here, I really really enjoyed this movie. The soundtrack is indeed incredible - Mark didn't mention that it was written by Jon Brion, who among other projects wrote my favourite ever soundtrack, from Eternal Sunshine. Although the music's jarring, distracting quality is perhaps what most puts people off the film, it quickly becomes clear that it simply represents the state of the protagonist's mind, the emotional inhibitors that do not allow him to function.

    It is perhaps only on this point that I disagree with Mark - although I find Adam Sandler's character strange and, yes, slightly creepy, I feel that this was far outweighted for the sheer sympathy I felt for him. He is clearly someone who will struggle to get through life without a true companion of some kind. Mark's point about Sandler's performance is again reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine in that Jim Carrey pulled the same trick (as he did in The Truman Show, another of my absolute favourite films).

  • Comment number 19.

    As usual, Mark chooses a particularly unique and appealing film for TV movie of the week. As mentioned previously, Jon Brion is probably one of the most inventive musicians and film composers and his style of music defined a certain, unfortunately short period of indy films. One thing I would mention is after living in Los Angeles for some time now, Anderson's films capture the San Fernando Valley in very concrete ways other films set here just don't get or want to show. I've worked in the sort of warehouse/office/sales floor that Sandler's character owns/manages and lived in apartments and townhouses like him, his girlfriend and his family. The semi-urban, impermanent environment in PUNCH DRUNK LOVE very much informs the character and characters of the film as it did both BOOGIE NIGHTS and MAGNOLIA.

  • Comment number 20.

    I rate PDL on a par with "As Good As It Gets" as the best of Avant Garde Rom Coms. (Nutter and Stalker vs Dog and Man)

    PDL is a film I have watched several times as I know it will deliver that strange blend of pleasurable anxiety throughout the movie. Adam Sandler gets a lot of bad press, deservedly for the cretinous dross he produces. However I for one will forgive him everything for his masterful acting display in PDL. Just goes to show every dog has his day!

  • Comment number 21.

    What about the Film Club, Dr K?

  • Comment number 22.

    I wonder was PTA inspired by Jim Davidson's appearance in A Zed & Two Noughts?

  • Comment number 23.

    As far as I'm concerned this will always be Adam Sandler's 'get out of jail free' card. If he never made another movie (and many wish that he wouldn't) he'll always have Punch-Drunk Love on his cinematic CV, and thats good enough.

    It's difficult to explain how much and, more importantly, why I adore this particular PTA movie, I just always have. The girl I was dating at the time of it's initial UK release, actually hated the movie so much that she spent must of the second half of the screening attempting to distract me almost any way she could but (like a complete idiot?) I hung in there, hypnotised by this beautifully strange and engaging movie… I just had to watch it right to the end.

    Needless to say, from that night onwards that particular relationship was clearly doomed to failure, the movie? I watch it at least once a year and often find myself recommending it to others.

    Punch-Drunk Love has something quite fascinating in it's DNA, something that is almost impossible to define, that is it's most beguiling quality. Warm, playfully odd, beautifully vulnerable, frighteningly intense and contradictory, it goes someway in replicating the emotional state of 'being in love' like no other movie I know of.

    Emily Watson gives one of her best ever performances and Sandler is a revelation as Barry Egan. Although dark, I always consider this the real romantics, romantic movie and it still stands as my favourite of PTA's work
    to date.

  • Comment number 24.

    My fourth favourite PTA film (but only because the others are so wonderful), this is merely great! Sandler is at his most well, tolerable here, and Watson is just lovely. It's a really sweet, quirky love story with an interesting edge to it. PTA really did harness Sandler's cinematic 'baggage' to great a frightening but very sympathetic character.

    I think the story is really nice too. An unhappy, furious man is given a hope for a happier, settled future. PTA believes in people, and he makes us believe that meeting the right person, and having them believe in us at the right time, can make us believe in ourselves. It's a very touching film and has some memorable, intuitive moments. I particularly like the scene where Sandler gives Watson an incredibly bizarre and violent compliment (something about her being so pretty he wants to punch her in the face) and she just hits him right back with an equally strange compliment!

    It's worth mentioning Watson. Her character may be the archetype of a sweet heroine sent to fix the troubled hero, but that's basically the main story (it IS a love story) and I think it works. It works as much due to her as it does PTA and Sandler.

    PTA is a legend!

  • Comment number 25.

    I did like PDL, though Sandler sometimes appeared to be trying to combine multiple characters at once and not always succeeding: Pee Wee Herman, Forrest Gump, and that hideous Little Nicky.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hope Mark and the BBC don't mind, but I just wanted to refer people to a page on the Guardian where you can ask Ang Lee questions for a video interview they're doing with him. There haven't been an awful lot of good serious questions so far so if anyone has anything interesting to say then there is a good chance it will be read out. I know there are a lot of genuine cinema fans here so it seemed as good a place as any to mention it.


  • Comment number 27.

    Having just watched Punch-Drunk Love the comparisons with The Master are apt, in PDL the free wheeling non-narrative plot suits the films oddball sensibilities whereas in The Master it just makes the film hard work. Also the music, which as in There Will be Blood is more like sound effects with a rhythm rather a film score, and the the song "he needs me" is genuinely charming and fits the film perfectly. Personally i find Punch-Drunk Love to be a more accessible film than The master or even There Will be Blood.

    As for the figure in the background, it's pretty clear who that's meant to be also when Barry punches the wall in his office the cuts on his knuckles appear to spell the word "love".

  • Comment number 28.

    Has film-club stopped?

  • Comment number 29.

    A truly great and underrated film and I agree that Sandler is 'at home' with this role. The film is quirky, sweet, intriguing and has a fight scene in the final act that has me jumping out of my chair. In terms of PTA's work, it is only bettered by There Will Be Blood (and yes I am including The Master and Magnolia in that, both of which I love) in my opinion, this is a film not to be missed.

  • Comment number 30.

    Having just checked my favourite movies list, I see Punch-Drunk Love is at #12, two places behind There Will Be Blood. As far as I'm concerned, PDL is the greatest love story ever filmed. Though I'm not the emotional nutcase Barry is, there are definitely elements of his character that I can relate to, giving the film much more of an impact over me than anything script-related in The Master - which felt empty by comparison.

    PDL's power lies within its theme of someone accepting you for what you are, no matter how removed from 'normality' you may appear. It seems, also, I may be lucky, as unlike many here, I know next to nothing about Adam Sandler's career, having only seen Little Nicky (of which I loathe with violent hate from the deep wells of the pit of my stomach), so can pretty much watch PDL objectively without any animosity towards Sandler. Personally, I think he's amazing in it. Maybe too amazing. Is it a character he's playing or is Barry really him?

    Punch-Drunk Love is a wonderful film - for me, Anderson's first of his two masterpieces and I could watch it over and over again.

  • Comment number 31.

    Great choices Mark but I think the late Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker deserves a mention.

  • Comment number 32.

    I really enjoyed P-DL, and agree with many of the sentiments above. I clocked her in the supermarket scene BUT can anyone comment on the car crash at the beginning, before the piano (OK sorry it's not a piano! lol) is dropped off???

    Also, as it seems many of PTA's movies seem to be a case of love 'em or hate 'em... I thought The Master was superb and very watchable, albeit owing to only the great acting and cinematography.

  • Comment number 33.

    This is a great movie!. Unlike most here I'm not an anti adam sandler, his films are throw away comedies which I've never had a problem with. Infact I found it interesting that here here he plays a character who switches from quietly calm to uncontrolably angry regulary, which is a common trait in the charactors he usually plays.

    I loved the blue/white motif apparent throughout and the soundtrack. But what really interested me was the supermrket scene Mark mentioned. The way the figure follows him whist Adams character mumbles "Talk to me". Then he looks right at her! Whats going on there!

  • Comment number 34.

    Sky fall 

    Sky fall 
    by it's content I was appalled.
    I'd wish the sky had fallen on me 
    while I was watching
    this wretched flick!

    Per-adverts hypes
    & fooled
    this silly old fool.

    Billed as 1 of 
    the best bond movies
    It supposed to be groovy
    & action packed...

    For me it lacked 
    a true story line punch
    you get the hunch.

    It was a mishmash 
    of patriotic trash
    that made the mind crash 
    into oblivion 
    & I'm not being harsh!

    It reminded me 
    of an adult version 
    of home alone,
    an almost exact clone
    or was I just stoned
    it could never atone!

    there were car chases,
    it was momentarily 
    like a day at the races,
    so I started doing 
    up my imaginary laces.

    There were guns,
    bullets galore,
    the odd  whore
    & for me 
    the whole film 
    was a big bore.

    A real chore 
    an eyesore 
    & I should have taken the match sticks
    to keep my eyes ticking
    as for me this film 
    was not kicking
    my intellect 
    as I didn't think 
    much of the dialect.

    The story line
    was in decline
    & should be refined.

    I'm fed up of being fed
    this repetitive 
    & meaningless crap
    but what can I do 
    to avoid the media trap?
    It's hard to shake off 
    as its like a tight strap.

    It was a real farce...

    a carcasse without the meat,
    a body without a brain,
    a car without the seat,
    a man without a mission...

    I should have studied 
    the theory of nuclear fission!

    On the mind a real drain!
    I wish I could crash it with a crane
    are these film makers insane?

    So now comrades 
    we must network 
    & not make it 
    so much hard work
    & let's not lark
    but just please understand 
    my occasional bark
    even if it sounds stark.

    Kam copyright 2012

  • Comment number 35.

    When I saw this at the cinema I dismissed it as pretentious and aimless, despite being a fan of PTA's other work. Thanks to Mark's nudge, though, I gave it another go on DVD and I loved it - funny, moving and engagingly off-kilter.

    Is there a word for liking movies better the second time around? Promethiosity, maybe?

  • Comment number 36.

    Punch drunk love is amazing and the master is incredible. the end.

  • Comment number 37.

    I'm not a huge P.T. Anderson fan but Punch Drunk Love is my favourite film of his, even though it's clearly derivative of the Coen brothers' finest work in the 1990s (better to steal from a good source than come up with something bad by yourself), when the Coens were in their "clumsy hijackers" phase. The blonde brothers in PDL are clearly lifted from the Nihilists in The Big Lebowski.

    PDL is a great date movie. In fact, in a perfect world it would have set a benchmark for future rom-coms, the kind that blokes can enjoy as well.

  • Comment number 38.

    Interesting analysis comparing the film to Richard Donner's 1978 Superman.


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