Punch Drunk Love

500 Days Of Film Reviews Paul Thomas Anderson's Unsettling, Yet Brilliant Punch Drunk Love.


Barry Egan (Sandler) is a lonely and deeply troubled man. He aspires to be a successful entrepreneur but can’t seem to catch a break.


He feels emasculated by his seven sisters who harangue and ridicule him at every turn. 

Seething with frustration and repressed anger, Barry succumbs to fits of violent rage and floods of desperate tears.

Looking for a non-judgmental connection, he calls a phone sex line and endeavours to open up to ‘Georgia’. 

However, having given his details to the operator (including his address) he finds himself being threatened and blackmailed by Georgia and her company of extortionists (including a brilliant turn by Philip Seymour Hoffman). 

Meanwhile, Barry meets Lea (Emily Watson), a friend of one of his sisters. She doesn’t seem to mind his strange and unsettling ways and appears to accept him. 

The two start one of the strangest relationships I think I have ever seen on screen. (Really, the film is worth watching for their terms of endearment alone.) 

The burgeoning relationship sees Barry follow Lea to Hawaii - a trip he tries to pay for by the vast collection of air miles coupons he has collected from the purchase of hundreds of puddings (this sub plot is based on the true story of David Phillips who spotted a promotion that enabled him, by buying 12,000 Healthy Choice puddings, to get 1,253,000 frequent flyer miles).

Oh and, in among all the blackmail and dark romance, there is a random harmonium.

Is It Any Good?

Punch Drunk Love grabbed me from the opening scene and I remained transfixed throughout. It’s a bonkers, unsettling, tension-filled film that intertwines some shocking scenes of violence with moments of dark humour.

Barry Egan feels like the role Adam Sandler was born to play. He is fantastically creepy and his portrayal of a man on the brink of breakdown is superb.

However, it is Lea that I really loved. Emily Watson gives a brilliantly understated performance.

At first it seems as if she she doesn’t have a lot to do and could potentially be a victim in Barry’s downward spiral into madness.  

You then realise that she holds all the cards and that she just may have that power all along. (Take a look at the scene at the beginning of the film when Barry is in the supermarket. Who is that blurred figure behind him?)

I also loved the way that the film is shot. Everything is so bright and shiny and full of blank spaces. Then, as if you didn’t feel that things were strange enough there are vibrant scenes of pulsing colour adding to the building sense of unease.

So who would have thunk it… a Adam Sandler movie that I can hand on heart recommend!

Go see it and tell me what you think...  

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones

E: jane@500daysoffilm.com


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