Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
After the debacle that was “Blended” (no movie I have ever reviewed has received a lower score) I needed to go back and remind myself why I actually like Adam Sandler. And this film is one of those reasons. Sandler made his name throughout the 90s in smash hit comedies that were ripped apart by most professional critics but who were loved by the general populous,myself included, for the most part. This movie was Sandler’s first foray into something deeper than just his usual generic lovable doofus (with a hidden temper/talent) type character, and he knocked it out of the park. Barry Egan is as complex and strange a person as you are likely to meet, whether he is defending himself from goons sent to collect on an unpaid phone sex line debt (run in a great but unnoticed performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) or trying to keep his personality disorder in check while attempting an actual human relationship with young Lana, or scheming to get free frequent flyer miles by buying a ton of pudding (don’t ask) he’s just consistently interesting to watch.
This movie takes the standard Adam Sandler persona, say the guy from Waterboy, but instead of playing up that guy for laughs, this one plays it straight and follows it to the naturally dark place that a life like that would lead to. And for me watching that natural progression was, and is very captivating with a character that is still naturally very funny in places but who stays in your memory much longer than most Sandler characters (except for internet memes that is). Alongside the perhaps not as great “Reign Over Me” this is my favorite Adam Sandler movie. It has none of the cloyingness of some later serious Sandler efforts like “Spanglish” (which I also liked, but feel embarrassed to admit that I liked it in mixed company…) or other films. This movie catches Sandler at peak form, and is heralded by a director who was ready to explore the depths of the Sandler persona instead of just playing it up for yucks.