View Full Version : A disappointing experiment.

11-07-2002, 01:38 PM
Paul Thomas Anderson, director of cult favorites `Boogie Nights' and `Magnolia,' officially made his bid to enter the cinematic mainstream last week with his newest offering, `Punch-Drunk Love,' a slapstick-heavy romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson. While Watson's best role was in the brilliant-but-scarcely heard-of `Cradle Will Rock,' Sandler came onto the scene as a Saturday Night Live performer and has starred in a series of comedy vehicles designed to make money and further his stature as a superstar. Few, if any, of Sandler's previous films could be confused with brilliantly-conceived works of cinematic art. Many people were surprised and put-off that Sandler and Anderson would elect to work with one another, given the vast differences in the types of films each is generally associated with. Anderson's three-hour-plus `Magnolia,' which starred a pre-`Hannibal' Julianne Moore as a suicidal trophy wife and earned Tom Cruise an Oscar nomination for best SUPPORTING actor, showed that he's willing to play with audience expectations.but casting `The Waterboy' as the lead in a movie that's intended to be taken relatively seriously? Not surprisingly, there have been whispers of Academy Award nominations for Sandler. That said, `Punch-Drunk Love' is something of a mess. Many of the events in the film just seem to happen with no real reason behind them. Things like that are fine in a film like `Magnolia,' where Anderson established early on the theme of randomness and coincidence, but in `Punch-Drunk,' audiences are left simply to wonder why someone pulls up to Adam Sandler's door in the first scene, leaves a working harpsichord on the street and speeds away. The harpsichord recurs throughout the film, and is a conversationpiece, but that is its sole value. Never does it actually play into the plot, other than the fact that character actor Luis Guzman and Emily Watson frequently correct Sandler that it is not, in fact, a piano. Sandler and Watson, both acclaimed by critics and film festival audiences for their performances in the film, turn in solid but ho-hum portrayals of characters in the throes of romantic love and, at times, insanity. Sandler is at his best when his character is stammering in front of the beautiful girl, and at his Live-From-New York worst when, for reasons that pass understanding, he destroys everything in sight at the mention of a childhood incident where his sisters called him `gay boy' and he threw a hammer through the sliding-glass door. Twice is this incident mentioned, and twice does Sandler fly off the hammer, scream and flail about like the star of `Happy Gilmore.' The premise of the film is that Barry (Adam Sandler) has issues. By the description he gives his brother-in-law the dentist, Barry seems to be suffering from serious anxiety attacks characterized by acts of random violence and overconsumption. To make a link between Anderson's film and Michael Moore's recent documentary `Bowling For Columbine' would actually give more strength to Barry's character-in `Columbine,' shock-rocker Marilyn Manson alleges that there is a cycle in America of `fear and consumption,' where people are terrified by violent TV and the evening news, and then immediately thereafter shown advertisments that show a happier life and delude us into believing there's an escape from real life through capitalism. In Barry's instance, a man who has never flown before and has no immediate intent to do so again buys thousands of pudding cups because Healthy Choice is running a promotion where customers can turn in UPC symbols from their products in exchange for frequent flier miles. Coupling his anxiety attacks with the Manson theory on consumption, this might make the film a powerful commentary on American life. Standing alone, it's merely a happy coincidence in a film full of them. Barry, in addition to falling in love with Lena (Watson), gets himself into trouble with a desert-dwelling thug played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and his cronies after giving his credit card information and social security number to a girl on a phone sex line. Rather than using this information to commit identity fraud, as the situation would suggest, the girl calls Barry back begging for a loan. When he turns off the credit card, Hoffman and his thugs take action. The rest of the movie deteriorates into a long, dull chase scene with Barry inexplicably not calling the police, while either being on a date or running from villains. Clearly Sandler's best film, `Punch-Drunk Love' is still clumsy and slow-moving. Anderson, in trying to establish himself as an `art' director, uses strange color-bar dissolves that skip across the screen and break up the action. One might imagine that this is a device employed to hide major cuts made in a longer film (by a director prone to long films), to make it shorter and more palatable to an Adam Sandler audience. The length, though, might have saved the film from its greatest fault: the ending is abrupt and forced-it seemed random and the movie could have used an extra half hour to tie up loose ends. Instead of building to a crechendo, the movie plods along its uneven path and then suddenly ends.

11-19-2002, 10:15 PM
I agree; it's basically a meadering experiment. It's so deliberately weird, it's feels artificial. It's strangeness is so self-conscious, it's emotionally impentrable.

11-20-2002, 01:30 AM
Originally posted by Alko
I agree; it's basically a meadering experiment. It's so deliberately weird, it's feels artificial. It's strangeness is so self-conscious, it's emotionally impentrable.

would have to agree. self-conscious, unsure and as a reaction to that, imcoprehensibly odd. I think he paints his films with weirdness to clutter the critical picture.