Punch Drunk Love is admittedly not your usual romantic comedy. For one, I think it tries to be, for lack of a better term, deep, with the way it presents itself. Even the pacing of the movie from the first act itself could be seen as quite experimental; for instance, with the use of space in that long, lingering shot of the main character at the corner of the screen, as discussed in class. This is quite unlike Adam Sandler’s usual straightforward slapstick comedy fare. (It calls into mind the brilliant casting of Will Ferrel in the movie, ‘Stranger than Fiction’; a personal favourite, and which shows that some comedy actors truly have the acting chops.) This is not saying, though, that this perceived ‘unusual presentation’ doesn’t work to its advantage.
There is something wrong with Barry Egan on the psychological level, and the film conveys this hilariously by uncovering his character through his life story. He could be seen leading an extremely uninteresting life; a dead end job, no real friends, and with nothing to look forward to. His sisters don’t exactly help as well, bringing him down and constantly reminding him of his weirdness. However, with the arrival of Lena as played by Emily Blunt, the audience is presented two people who aren’t quite right in the head as per the standards of normal society, navigating their way through the seas of love and just wanting to be understood. I found their chemistry to be somewhat questionable; though if the director’s intention was to show the awkwardness present in their relationship, then he has succeeded. A particularly awkward yet hilarious scene was when Barry and Lena were in the process of making out, and were trying to dirty talk each other, which turned out as disastrously contrived; it would make for a few laughs.
Adam Sandler can be seen to convey a wide range of emotions in this film, and his acting skills are put to the test; he is quite good with these types of movies. On the other hand, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as the emotionally unstable conman is also worthy of mention, though it is of my personal opinion that he is somewhat underutilized in this film. The supporting cast is admirable as well; with the characters giving off that awkward and unsure vibe as demanded by the movie.
But what steals the show is the direction and film elements; such as the subtle transitions and lighting effects which have been subject to much curiousity and debate. As discussed in class and also due to the supplemental readings, the bluish streaks of light are manifestations of the instances of true love in the movie. These effects, though subtle, are noticeable and provide an experimental twist to what would be otherwise a rather dry and slow paced movie. With all these elements combined, however, the film is a refreshingly unique romantic comedy in this genre which is filled with unoriginal copycats.
Punch Drunk Love’s title alone is unique in the sense that nowhere in the movie could anyone be seen punch drunk. However, it was able to capture that feeling of love? between Barry and Lena, if not the universal yearning of just wanting to understand and to be understood in return.