Review: “Punch Drunk Love”

One of the most eccentric romantic comedies you’re ever likely to see, “Punch Drunk Love” does for Adam Sandler what “The Truman Show” did for Jim Carrey – takes a ‘dumb comedy’ actor and shows off his highly potent acting potential.

Unlike ‘Truman’ however, ‘Love’ is a film which’ll be far less accepted by fans of both him and Director Paul Thomas Anderson whose more cynical and straight up approaches in “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia” differ greatly to this effort which is thankfully far less self-indulgent and ego-driven than his last few.

‘Punch’ includes all the requisite stuff you’d see in the genre – a sweet dinner in a holiday getaway, the guy whose always had problems getting the girl actually landing her, a nasty man (Phillip Seymour Hoffman in brief but funny role) who gets what he deserves and all sorts of weird and eye catching moments (such as an accident in the opening minutes that shocked the hell out of me).

However this is certainly NOT a “Sleepless in Seattle” style clone. Sandler plays a self-employed, lonely and anti-social young man with a temper he sometimes cannot control and a family of sisters who seem to love indulging in emotional abuse of their male sibling. Whilst Sandler’s typical over the top yelling/anger antics do come into play here, they’re done in an interesting and unexpected way and prove quite jarring.

Its an effectively restrained performance from the usually overcooked comedian and a character of intriguing depth and interest. With so much time spent focussing on Sandler, Watson is left a little on the empty side though she has her own quirkiness which makes the romance between these timid but curious personalities quite believable.

This is not a film that will hit all the marks though. Fans of Sandler’s comedy stylings will be gravely disappointed as the laughs in here are subtle even at the best of times. For a romantic comedy, there’s a good level of emotional love and humour but its not overt and in many ways has a twisted sense about it which a few will dismiss or turn off.

Jon Brion’s strange offkey orchestral score is great, but is also WAY too overpowering and in your face for the most part, and then practically non-existent and missed in others. A better balance would’ve helped this a lot. The pace does get quite slow, especially at the start whilst the phone sex hotline crooks subplot won’t appeal to all. Still like anything that’s offbeat and unusual, the flaws are minor compared to the benefits and different perspective. A richly rewarding piece with a beautiful sense of optimism.