I am not usually a big fan of the rom-com genre, but Punch-Drunk Love is one of those movies that I can always go back to and watch again whenever I am feeling down and out; it is like a friend who I can always confide in when I need to. Besides being an unusual romantic comedy, the movie also touches the theme of chance and coincidence, a theme Paul Thomas Anderson has been continually explored in his previous movies.
Here, Adam Sandlers plays his arguably best role to date as Barry Egan, a childlike, bad-tempered and incredibly lonely human being. He is someone who cannot quite fit in the fast-paced world around him due to a lack of social skills and his refusal to grow up. Once in a while we find ourselves laughing at Barry’s clumsiness and childish behaviors, and we immediately feel bad for him afterwards. But beneath the somewhat weird personality and his blue suit is a damaged heart that is yearning for love and crying silently throughout the movie. Everything changes when he meets Lena, an equally lonely woman who loves every quirk in Barry and sees him for who he is; she arrives just in time to save him from his trapped mind. Suddenly Barry’s world is turned upside down, as for the first time in his life he gets a taste of love. Barry has discovered a way out of his isolation in the most unlikely of places.
I love every little detail of this movie, from the purposeful use of colors, the lighting, the contrast between bright and darker tones, and the seemingly random symbolism put throughout the movie. Part of it feels like a silent movie, the other makes me think of a musical. I also love how Paul Thomas Anderson made Punch-Drunk Love almost like a silent movie with minimal usage of dialogues, to show us just how lonely the main character is, and we can feel the intimacy between Barry and Lena just by the way they look at each other. We never hear any of them say the three words “I love you”, which tend to be overused in most romantic movies to the point of losing their meaning, yet we know that they are absolutely in love. I adore the quirkiness of this movie just as much as I adore the flaws and humanness of its characters.
Another highlight of the movie is the wonderful score composed by Jon Brion; it is beautiful in its own way and works perfectly well in showing audiences Barry’s psychological states. The main theme is simple but memorable; it flows effortlessly into my heart. I admire the score so much I even bought the soundtrack CD despite having already own a DVD of the movie. Along with the exquisite cinematography and the dazzling hallucinogenic scene, Brion’s score helps create a feeling that is best described as intoxicating or punch-drunk.
Punch-Drunk Love is certainly not for everyone. Not everyone is going to embrace all the flaws and imperfections of humanity like Anderson did. In Anderson’s eyes, every human beings, no matter how damaged they are, still deserve love. In this movie, love is presented in its purest form, an unconditional love. Some may argue that thing like this rarely happens in real life, and they are not completely wrong: we live in a world where sometimes people are so busy with goals and daily routines that we become devoid of love; most of us expect our partner to have certain standards, so how can we be sure it is the person that we love, not the standards we ask from them? Ultimately, Punch-Drunk Love is just a movie, and as someone has put it, a film is 24 lies per second in the service of truth. But it is such a beautiful movie, a little gift from Anderson for the unloved, full of hearts and warmth radiating from its colorful images, a movie which is here to remind us that sometimes all we really need is love.
Memorable line (Lena): “I just wanted you to know, wherever you’re going or whatever you’re doing right now, I want you to know that I wanted to kiss you just then.”