Punch-Drunk Love (Review)

I just don’t get it.

I must have seen this movie referenced a million times in the last few years for various reasons:

– Look Sandler can act!
– At last a love story that guys can watch.
– The most underrated films of the…

But it was the Top 100 movies of the 2000s so far list I read last week that tipped the scales and sent me to the shops.

Now I have a pretty simple formula (I think) for rating movies, same as most people. Charm, action, laughs, acting, plot etc are all in there and help me come to my conclusion, but the most important factor is did I actually like the damn thing?

And in this case I didn’t.

I don’t care how clever a film thinks it is, how interwoven the characters are by the end of the film or the unlikely circumstances that bring them together in a supposedly “romantic” piece like this, if I don’t like it I don’t like it.

Now that I’ve said I don’t like it I’m not going to leave it there, here is why:

The primary character of Punch-Drunk Love, played by Sandler, is thoroughly unlikeable, offputting even, his name is Barry Egan. In real terms I would never choose to associate with this guy.

The reasons behind his psychological issues are never explained, but we do see at one point that he has 7 sisters who emotionally bully him and seem to have always done so. Barry seems very fragile, he is socially pathetic, prone to fits of violence, lies to others to their faces to protect himself and withdrawn.

Into his life comes a seemingly innocent and nice young woman named Lena played by Emily Watson. Why she takes a shine to Barry is also never explained and he immediately and constantly lies to her and makes rash decisions that sometimes turn out to be to her detriment. Oh and he also follows her to another timezone without notice. You might call it romantic, but when Barry is screaming and swearing at his sister from a Hawaiian payphone demanding she reveal where Lena is staying if I were Lena I probably wouldn’t want to be located.

So once they get together I am supposed to be happy they found love? Yay, a violent social misfit with the tendency to solve everything with violence has scored with a fresh faced and friendly young woman.

Fuck that.

If Barry managed to hook up with one of my female friends or relatives I would be horrified, regardless of how quirky he seemed or her plans to “change him”.

If there was ever a sequel and they decided to commence PDL 2 immediately after the credits rolled in this, I can’t help but feel that either a hospital or funeral scene would be happening for Lena within the first 10 minutes, after all there is no evidence that Barry changes one iota in this film, if anything his behaviour gets worse as the film goes along.

Other stuff happens in Punch-Drunk Love, and there are some pretty effective scenes at times so I can’t honestly give it a horrible score, but when the central premise is so disgusting to me I don’t care how good critics might say it is…

A note that will never be read:

To the director of Punch-Drunk Love, Wes Anderson, and for that matter the makers of Napoleon Dynamite and similar films.

Filling your film with unreal characters and then putting them in unreal situations and making them say unreal things and perform unreal acts isn’t clever anymore.

It was never clever.

It was initially different and even a little amusing because it was fresh. Now it is just lazy. Based upon the diminishing returns of Nacho Libre, The Life Aquatic and Punch-Drunk Love, the public has quickly grown tired of your gimmicks.

Please try something different.

And you’re damn right I just listed Punch-Drunk Love alongside Nacho Libre!

Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. 95 minutes of well-made tediousness and a reprehensibly warped lead character. Punch-Drunk Love is shockingly over-rated.

Another thought: It is now two days since I watched Punch-Drunk Love and I was amazed at how pissed off I was with it once I started thinking about it later. Even now I am a little too wound up to be writing this in an unbiased manner, and I’m the guy that thinks Bad Santa and The Ref are funny stuff.

I was trying to think of the last film that enraged me for no tangible reason and it was just now, after I finished writing this that I realized it was Funny People last year. Funny People of course starred… Adam Sandler!

I don’t especially hate Sandler and have no irrational (that I know of) reason to find disgust in his films (aside from Billy Madison for sucking arse), so perhaps this is a coincidence. I do find it a little weird that the two films that caused me to over-react in such a strongly negative manner feature the same guy, and for similar reasons: A guy we are supposed to feel sorry for being a horribly flawed person with precious few redeeming qualities.

No idea what this means, I just found it odd. But I still can’t for the life of me understand why anyone can watch this and find entertainment value in it, let alone consider it one of the masterpieces of the last decade.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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