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  • Punch Drunk Love (2002): ****

    Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

    What a horrifying yet absolutely captivating and somehow freakin' hilarious film. With the possible exception of Luis Guzman's character (and occasional very minor characters), there is not a single "normal" person in the whole endeavor.

    Certainly not Adam Sandler's character. A lone male who grew up with eight sisters who tormented him to no end (and still do—he is repeatedly ordered to attend a specific party and not to "puss out"). The sisters heap trauma after trauma upon him so endlessly that he has absolutely no outlet to deal with it all, and the sisters are frighteningly unaware that such casually horrifying torture could cause any damage whatsoever. They don't understand why he suddenly kicks and shatters a sliding glass door after they fondly recall how they used to call him "gay boy" when he was younger.

    But into his life comes Emily Watson's character, who seems to be able to see the endless layers of damage that have been slathered onto him. And she actually seems to like him and his damage. She doesn't want to try to "fix" him.

    And then there's an actual plot involving collecting pudding for frequent flier miles, phone sex operators sending thugs around to beat money out of you, and a desperate attempt to go to Hawaii.

    The sheer amount of psychological damage shown by Sandler is phenomenal. You can't take your eyes away from his performance as he alternately cowers and explodes. It is really a remarkable performance of a remarkable character. Emily Watson's character, however, suffers from a lack of development. Who is she? Why is she like the way she is? We don't really learn that much about her, although it is also a fascinating performance that hints that deep down there is actually quite a lot to this character. I just wish it came to the surface more, as in a frightful scene in which Adam Sandler confesses that she thinks Emily Watson is so beautiful that he basically wants to beat her up very badly—and Emily Watson finds this more than endearing.

    The cinematography is off the heezy-beezy. The film doesn't look like a comedy. It looks like a high-art film, with brilliant lighting and camera angles and movements. Like all P. T. Anderson films it boasts a well thought out, haunting score and soundtrack.

    You know, I'm making this film seem like a drama or a horror film or something. It isn't. I laughed my ass off throughout a great deal of it, and I honestly have no idea how P. T. Anderson and Adam Sandler managed to make a film about such horrifying subject matter be so absolutely drop-dead hilarious. This film has me in awe over the very idea of what a film comedy can be.

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