A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 263 – Punch Drunk Love

Punch Drunk Love – November 18th, 2010

When I see the words “romantic comedy” I tend to cringe. Yes, there certainly are good ones, but there are more bad ones. What comes immediately to mind when I see the words “romantic comedy” is something like You’ve Got Mail, a movie that makes me so viscerally angry I can’t even flip by it on television without ranting about it. I really fucking hate that movie. Anyhow, the words do not bode well to me. And then when I see the name “Adam Sandler” something similar happens, except with flashbacks to his shrieking man-child antics on Saturday Night Live. Combine the two and I’m sure I would never in a million years have bought this movie. But I didn’t buy it. Andy did.

I feel like this movie very much wants to be The Big Lebowski, but instead of The Dude we get Adam Sandler. I like The Dude a hell of a lot better. This is sort of like if Walter and Donny were combined and made the hero of that movie instead of The Dude. And while I felt bad for Donny I really disliked Walter and needed him to shut the fuck up most of the time. So this is not a great combination for me. Worse when it’s actually Adam Sandler with the sudden fits of anger and wince-inducing awkwardness. I have some sympathy for social awkwardness. I spent a lot of my youth and teen years incredibly painfully awkward. But that doesn’t make it enjoyable to watch someone else repeatedly shove his foot in his mouth and then break a window or two out of frustration.

So, as one might suspect, this movie is largely about Adam Sandler’s character, Barry. Barry is a toilet plunger salesman who has seven sisters who nag him to death and tease him about things from their childhood. Barry is incredibly socially awkward and goes so far as to try to confidentially ask one of his brothers-in-law for help finding a psychiatrist because he has this problem where he cries randomly for no reason. Of course his harpy sisters find out and nag him about that too. I don’t like Barry, but no one deserves that and I don’t like any of his sisters either. Barry is prone to lashing out when the awkwardness snaps back like a taut rubber band. This is not something I find unexplainable, but it’s not much fun to witness. Anyhow, Barry calls a phone sex line out of desperate loneliness and ends up chatting about mundane crap while the operator tries to get him hot and mostly fails. She ends up trying to bilk him out of $750 and sics her brothers on him when he refuses. Meanwhile, Barry’s actually met a woman who likes him and whom he’s managed to talk to and kiss! So the rest of the movie is sort of a muddle of Barry and Lena (the woman) and their very quick romance and how it acts as a catalyst for Barry to finally be able to do something to fix his own life.

That’s great. Girl as catalyst. I simply adore it when the female lead is reduced to a single purpose: Giving her man strength. Really, that’s Lena’s whole purpose in this movie. As a character she’s woefully faint. We know she’s slightly awkward herself. She works with one of Barry’s sisters doing… something. It’s never made clear what. She was married at some point in the past, but that’s never elaborated upon. She likes to travel, but I don’t think that’s ever explained either. Mostly her defining characteristic is that she’s interested in Barry and willing and able to cope with and see past his awkwardness to something that makes her fall in love with him. Goodness knows what it is cause I don’t see it. And even if I had, his weird line about wanting to smash her face with a sledgehammer, delivered as an endearment while they’re in bed together, would kind of turn me off. What with it being so thoroughly squickful. Do I have to even try to explain how much that freaks me out and why?

When it comes to the plot, I can see what was intended. There’s a subplot with frequent flier miles and Healthy Choice pudding and a sales promotion, but it’s sort of a red herring meant to give Barry a quirk that serves as an impetus for him to act later on in the movie. The thing with the phone sex line and the four guys who come to harass Barry is another cue for Barry to take action. It spurs him to take off for Hawaii on short notice. It’s a threat against Lena later on, which leads to the ultimate showdown between Barry and the guys (one of the few satisfying moments of the movie for me) and Barry and the guy who runs the phone sex line (thoroughly unsatisfying). But really, those plots and the romance with Lena? They’re all for Barry. The sisters are background for him. The guys he works with are background for him. The pudding, the harmonium he finds in the street, the phone sex plot and the extortion that it leads to? It’s all to showcase the development of this one guy from awkward and occasionally violent to. Um. Still awkward and occasionally violent but with a purpose. Great.

I did not enjoy this movie. It made me tense during the violent bits and flinchingly uncomfortable during the awkward bits. The weirdness in between and Emily Watson’s Lena were really the movie’s only saving graces, and they’re not enough to make me like this movie. Though to be honest, I don’t think it’s just Adam Sandler’s presence. I think any actor playing this part, with the anger management issues and social awkwardness would do the same thing for me. It’s the part as written. It’s the plot as written. It’s that Lena’s the only character I like and she’s not much of a character. She’s a character development tool for the story of Barry, as shown by the bizarre but oddly fitting use of “He Needs Me” from Popeye. He has to defend his woman! Ultimately this is a character study. It’s just that I don’t particularly want to study this character. In fact, I’ll be glad to put this character and this whole movie behind me and pretend it doesn’t exist.

November 18, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: