the pathetic caverns - movies by title - Punch Drunk Love
eclectic reviews and opinions
Punch Drunk Love
2002, D & S: Paul Thomas Anderson
So here's my hypothesis, which may be totally off-base: Punch-Drunk Love is an attempt to push the conventions of the romantic comedy so far that they become completely absurd, even surreal. Remember that great headline in the Onion, "Romantic Comedy Behavior Gets Real-life Man Arrested?" In the movies, when the guy doesn't take "no" for an answer, it's sweet. He's devoted. But a guy acts that way toward someone you know in real life, it's stalking. The guy is sick.
Punch-Drunk Love is perhaps the first mainstream film I've seen to really explore this ambiguity.
It does ring several changes on the formula. For one thing, it's the woman (Emily Watson) who's chasing the guy (Adam Sandler). She sees his photo, and she just has to meet him. And since it's a P.T. Anderson film, there have to be plenty of opportunities to use the word "cock," this time thanks to a moderately psychotic phone-sex/shakedown operation. But the romantic comedy core structure is more-or-less intact. Sandler's character has foibles. In a Farrelly Brothers movie he'd be getting semen in inappropriate places; here he beats up lavatories and buys almost inexplicable quantities of pudding. He's not sure he's ready for a relationship, but eventually Lena wears him down.
There are complications aplenty, but there's a pretty clear sense that eventually the lovers will stagger off together. Both, probably, wearing at least a few bandages.
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