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I don't know why I review films under a pseudonym. I was thinking about it the other night and wondered why I ever decided to put any name but my own on my work. Like most human people, I have quirks that cause me to do unexplained things. But other than this pseudonym thing and the habit of letting my dog lick my face for twenty minutes at a time, I feel I'm a pretty normal guy, especially after seeing Punch Drunk Love.
PDL stars Adam Sandler as a social misfit, cowed and mentally corroded from being the only brother of seven meddling, patronizing sisters. As an adult, he has grown up to like being alone, and he is expert at avoiding confrontation. Kind of. For a living, he runs a struggling start-up that sells novelty toilet plungers. This is unlikely enough, but enter Emily Watson, a coquettish lass who, quirky herself, has eyes for Sandler. As he falls in love and awkwardly courts her, his mood swings between ecstasy, rage, and utter despair. He does a lot of running around, smashing things up, making excuses, and trying to liberate himself with the truth. It's truly painful to watch, but something about this film is so novel, that it's rather riveting.
Also, Sandler's volcanic personality makes for some delightful whammies. No car chases or big guns are needed; instead, Sandler bottles up the abuse of his sisters, shoves it beneath a thick wadding of rationalizations, and tamps it down by swallowing any retorts or self-defense he might offer. Add a bit of powder in the form of a particularly restimulating memory, and Sandler suddenly makes a terrible crash by breaking something large.
Sandler, starring as someone other than himself, is the best I've ever seen him in the most challenging role he's ever taken. Of course the course of true love runs far from smoothly. On a lonely night, Sandler contacts a phone sex worker who takes his credit card number and personal information and starts making his life very hard. At first, it's a request for some extra cash. Then it's blackmail. Her beau is Philip Hoffman in the role of an extremely sleazy white-trash furniture dealer and two-bit mobster. Hoffman sends four inbred brothers to rough up Sandler and keep him paying for having called the phone sex girl.
Will things ever work out for our struggling doofus? It's easy to hope so, since he embodies all of our neuroses. In other words: if you have a neurosis, Sandler's character has that one, too. So it's not hard to root for him to reach some bit of happiness. Maybe he's so sympathetic because he never makes a play for sympathy however much he needs some.
At last, telling the truth to Watson and rising to the occasion of his chance at love, our desperate weirdo finds a welcome liberation. The feel-good ending isn't what you're used to: it's not a sappy thing that's been set up from the beginning. Instead, you feel good because, finally, you're not feeling so awkward and uncomfortable for our protagonist. Originality in filming scores PDL some extra points for a total of 9-3/4 stars. I liked it.
©2003 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.