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“I don’t know if there is anything wrong because I don’t know how other people are.”

Paul Thomas Anderson has been called one of the greatest and unique filmmakers of his generation, especially after the releases of highly acclaimed Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Anderson stated after Magnolia’s release that he’d like to work with Adam Sandler in a film lasting only 90 minutes. Sandler is not exactly well loved by critics (especially by the late Roger Ebert) but boy oh boy! Both Sandler and Anderson have created a beautifully crafted piece of cinema portraying the realistic nature of finding love.

Sander portrays in the narrative Barry, a lonely small time business man who is constantly emotionally abused by his seven over-bearing sisters. Because of this, he goes through periods of enormous rage and has problems interacting with others. However, things appear more positive when Lena (Emily Watson) is introduced in his life. From there, Barry tries to find ultimate happiness through Lena and wants to change his life around for the better.

PTA’s script is fantastically written portraying the very unique relationship between Barry and Lena. What I think makes this film so much more special is how it deliberately avoids typical conventions of rom-coms and instead implies a very believable relationship because of the awkwardness of the developing romance. Besides that, the symbolism throughout the film is incredible and very clever such as colour connoting Barry’s psychological battle. Blue is frequently seen as the suit Barry wears, his workplace and his home. Red is used to serve as the colour to Barry’s ultimate happiness such as Lena wearing red on their first date. White is used to contrast red since Barry travels and works in white environments which are isolated such as his office.

The cinematography by Robert Elswit is outstanding. The use of lengthy long shots and close ups reinforce Barry’s loneliness and isolation to the outside world. My favourite shot from the film has to be the opening, I was amazed with how it instantly reflected on Barry’s emotional and physical state since he is so far away. Not only that, symbolism is used once again with Barry’s phone representing his connection to the outside world. The use of lens flares is also very effective (unlike J.J. Abrams’ overuse of it in Star Trek!) because it presents the genuine emotions Barry and Lena feel.

The score by Jon Brion is composed stunningly reflecting the relationship using frequent use of strings, accordions and the classic harmonium! What makes it distinct is that it sounds very much what you would expect from a rom-com score: lovely melody, no dissonance, perfect harmony, major key. These conventions all manage to fit in to this very authentic connection between Barry and Lena.

Besides all these unique features of cinema, it is also one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely up there with Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Adam McKay’s Anchorman despite not having any hyperbolic uses of comedy. Instead, it feels like a very true representation of isolation whilst having realistic humour. The funniest scenes had to be between Sandler and Philip Seymour Hoffman who also portrays a business man with a massive temper who delivers in my mind the best ‘shut up’ line ever and the notorious ‘bathroom’ scene!

A joyful, dramatic and hilarious film. Punch-Drunk Love proves Sandler doesn’t always need to play the slapstick, over-the-top, goof-ball and PTA can write and direct a very interesting take on the comedy genre. This is a film with real heart and soul. Highly recommended!

5/5

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