SPOILER ALERT! There are spoilers in this review. Please don’t read it if you don’t want this movie spoiled for you.
When I first saw the trailers for Punch-Drunk Love, I was intrigued. I had seen Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the other movie they did around the same time, Red Dragon, and I was interested to see them in this movie as well. It took me much longer to see this film, obviously – I saw Red Dragon in the theater in 2002, but didn’t see Punch-Drunk Love until about two weeks ago.
In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t waste my money on it – well, other than my Netflix fee.
Barry Egan, played by Adam Sandler, is an anguished, depressed, completely dejected salesman. He is cruelly verbally abused by his seven sisters, causing most of his depression, as well as extremely violent behavior, and a tendency to cry “for no reason.” His most obnoxious sister – aptly played by bitchy-as-hell Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known for her part as Chloe on 24 – is the worst offender, constantly riding his ass about going out on a blind date with one of her friends, played by Watson.
Utterly disjointed, connected only by scenes of oftentimes completely unnecessary and confusing violence, and excruciating in both its constant torture of Egan – who is thrown from one extremely bad situation to another – the movie is painful to watch. At a family dinner, he smashes three huge sliding-glass doors at the house of one of his sisters, and then confesses to one of his in-laws that he has a problem with crying, and proceeds to burst into tears. He calls a sex line – not surprising, considering he literally has no one to talk to who doesn’t completely insult, degrade, or curse at him – and the next day, the woman threatens to steal his identity when he tells her he can’t help her out financially. Her boss, played by Hoffman, sends thugs after Barry, and they proceed to rob him and beat him up. All of these things have massive build-up, with the only positive light in his life being points he gets from buying Weight Watchers foods which he plans to use to get Frequent Flyer miles using a loophole in the rules.
Not making any sense? It didn’t make any sense when I was watching it, either. The culmination of ridiculousness occurs when he is in bed with Watson, and they are making out, and he tells her that he wants to smash her face in, and commences more “pillow talk” in the form of describing all the violent things he wants to do to her. She responds in kind, and then they make a comment along the lines of “this is fun.” I’m sorry, but if I started kissing a darkly disturbed dude who was known to lie and had gotten us kicked out of a restaurant because he destroyed the bathroom (which, in all fairness, she found out later, BUT STILL), if he started talking about smashing my face in, I’d probably get the hell out of there pretty quickly.
At the end of the movie, all I could think was, “no movie has made me that depressed since There Will Be Blood.” Surprise! It was the same director, Paul Thomas Anderson. I also felt the same way about Boogie Nights, though don’t worry – I know that depressing stories about drug-addicted porn stars aren’t supposed to make me happy. In all fairness, I DID love Magnolia. But I’d still like to send him a personal thank-you: for making me depressed with poorly-constructed movies and setting my teeth on edge with horrible scores since 2007.
I’d like to add one more comment: this movie, aside from being one of the worst, was one of the cruelest I’ve ever seen. I would rank this in the same category as movies like Saw – the totally unnecessary and awful torture of people by other people, simply because they think they are superior. The only difference between the two is the amount of blood and the entertainment value – of which I think Saw had more of both. It may seem extreme to compare the two movies, but honestly, I couldn’t even crack a single smile through this entire film, and feared the ending would result in the main character’s suicide…which I felt would actually have been a relief. In comparison, sawing off one’s own foot seems mild.