I don't think Punch-Drunk Love is a film I had seen before, having heard of it throughout the years but having no recollection of it when I came to watching it the other day. Not paying attention to the Paul Thomas Anderson name attached under the director role, but instead focusing on the younger Adam Sandler in a serious role. A name that many find strange these days after he went down a weird route of making absolute trash for many years, printing a ton of free money using his own production companies to get these terrible films funded as he hired is own friends and just went a bit crazy doing it all. Though recently we had Uncut Gems, a film with an older Adam Sandler again displaying that he can in fact act. Not just in a comedic role, but a serious one. These more serious performances, truthfully, have me thinking that Adam Sandler had and still has promise.
Punch-Drunk Love, however, actually has a lot of similarities to Uncut Gems. Both in its build up of a character as things progressively get worse and more intense for them, as well as the use of music which serves to constantly maintain momentum, at a steady tempo that aims to keep you on edge. I couldn't help but notice these similarities while watching it, almost feeling as if Adam Sandler had some impact on the outcome of Uncut Gems with this film being some strong influence with Paul Thomas Anderson's creative eye. I don't want to make too many references to Uncut Gems, though. These two films came out at very different times. With different ideas. Punch-Drunk Love is instead a film that shows a person's breaking point. To which they discover their true potential once given something to fight for. A contrast of weakness and strength in a person once something with meaning enters their life. I have to say, I really enjoyed it and will already recommend it from here, before going into any deeper aspects of this review.
Though I also want to add that with this film and its review, there may be some spoilers. I do think the film is best without knowing what you're going into. Keep that in mind if you feel like reading this!
I have a bit of a bias towards films that display bottom of the barrel characters that go through life and it's chaos. Beaten-down protagonists that have very little going for them, struggling within the world but still prevailing. These characters of course almost instantly gain your interest. Pulling on your empathy and having you root for their growth and success. Of course, much of the film industry thrives on displaying characters that are already relatively comfortable or well-off. Even supposed losers are still relatively normal, functional people. The off chance that Hollywood does actually show weak people as weak, I find that these films tend to be bits. Drunk-Punch Love is one of these films. Our protagonist running a bit of a weird business in some small warehouse in Los Angeles, alone, surrounded by the stress of a failing business. And plagued by endless sisters that insist on pulling him out of his important workplace. The film throws us almost immediately into this chaos.
Though aside from throwing us into the momentum, one of the first things I noticed was the beauty of the cinematography. The camera fixes on our protagonist often. We see long tracking shots both via Steadicam and handheld, and sometimes these shots really work in building the world. I recall one scene in particular in which our protagonist is calling a sex hotline to talk to a woman, though purely to talk to a woman about anything. Lonely, stressed, and in need of comfort, he sits at his table in his small apartment. The camera tracking from one side of the table to the other to display the emptiness in his life. The call filling that void of the other chair where another person should be. This scene goes on for a while, and it's profoundly engaging in the way it has us feeling for this character. The pacing also winds down a bit to show the moments meant to be quiet and relaxing for this character are actually filled with sadness.
This narrative spirals out of control as our protagonist ends up being blackmailed by the girl he called the following day, as she calls back asking for money. This proceeds to be a chaotic game of cat-and-mouse as she constantly tried to harass him while he attempts to get by during is regular, already hellish days. Only adding fuel to the fire that ultimately leads to his breaking point. To add to this narrative is our protagonist discovering a bit of a loophole in regards to travel: buy certain puddings that offer air miles, and you effectively can redeem them for a near lifetime supply of free flights, all for the low cost of a few thousand dollars. This has our character roaming around buying all the pudding he can get, collecting air miles that aren't being used for yet. This allegedly being based on a similar story in real life. Though later on this collection of pudding and thus air miles does come useful.
Despite having a relatively serious narrative, Punch-Drunk Love still has many comedic elements. These come and go through our protagonist as he slowly cracks. Losing his ability to stay relaxed and seal with situations as he usually would: by doing nothing. This has him slowly shaping into someone with confidence, finally cracking and sticking up for himself. It's a really rewarding character growth throughout that has you wanting to see him take it beyond each time. I really liked watching this, it felt organic in his growth, and the comedy is added through his sudden outbursts or through dialogue. Often showing the insanity of the situations or just the awkwardness of it as someone that hasn't really managed to stick up for themselves now does. It results in additional onscreen growth too as parts of his life start to come into his control.
Adam Sandler's performance throughout is truly great. His younger appearance serves perfectly as some relatively weak man slowly discovering his true strength and ability. Wearing a strange slightly too large blue suit most of the time that just makes him look even more cartoonish and silly. While I have seen his more serious performances before, I couldn't imagine a different actor suiting this character. I think this is due to Sandler's ability to act, but also ability to be loud and angry. Though I feel I should add that the other performances in the film are also pretty good; with an appearance of Philip Seymour Hoffman. An incredible actor sadly taken from us too soon; one of which I would say was one of the last true actors with his talent.
I don't really want to say more of the narrative and characters here; as to avoid going too deep into any spoilers!
I couldn't write about this film without mentioning the fact that the film, shot on 35mm film, was also shot on anamorphic lenses! I couldn't help but notice that oval bokeh throughout. The beauty of the wide angle lens. The way it shows symmetry in the film, often empty locations with minimal colours. Sometimes using colour to show the passing of time between scenes. Almost like a chapter change. These anamorphic lenses are used in various ways. Not always for wide angle cinematic shots, sometimes instead up-close perspectives of the character's faces to really get us, the audience, close into their lives and thoughts. This helps give contrast between the wide angle cinematic perspectives and the ones that help us feel and engage with the characters. Though still remaining very beautiful with aspect ratio that comes with anamorphic lenses.
35mm film format and anamorphic lenses leads to a direction of colourful tones that seem soft. Coated in film grain and heavily dreamlike, especially under artificial lighting: interior screens and night scenes where backgrounds are lit with streetlights and advertisements. Adding blue, purple, white and green tones to the image. I loved it! From the directing and cinematography alone, I can absolutely recommend this film. Any fan of cinema or photography will easily be able to appreciate all this film has to offer.
Drunk-punch-love, uncut gems and funny people had me on my to watch list for so long that it is just sad now. No punchline.
After reading this review and what I heard about the movie, it just feels like Adam Sandler is just a big troll and he troll his audience with the nonsense jackandjill performances.. 😅
I feel like that's the case. He filters a stupid amount of money from Hollywood into his own production companies and gives it to himself and his friends while making the most insufferable films, constantly trying to see what he can get away with.
Adam, to me, has always been with the unserious roles in films. But the few times I saw him act in serious roles, he did pretty well.
The storyline of this film seems to be engaging with your description of it. I'm particularly drawn by the cinematography of it. I could picture the camera going around Adam in that room, depicting the emptiness.
I am just learning about anamorphic lenses and their unique touch with focus and bokeh. Most definitely, I would appreciate this film for the cinema works, if I do check it out.
I definitely recommend it!
What a nice story line , I sometimes find it hard to get hold of some Interesting movies like this but I got one now. Thanks for sharing
Yeah they're a bit rare. It's hard to find stories that really do display the growth of a character through hardship and force as they take matters into their own hands and discover themselves through it.
Hmm . That's true tho and that's what most people do now. Taking laws into their hand because they can't wait for the right channel to do that for them
I remember asking a girl that I had just met if she wanted to go see that movie with me but she didn't go because I guess it sounded like I was trying to be too romantic. haha. The film is about so much more than that and I believe it showcases that Sandler actually is a pretty fantastic actor. His serious films are so much better than his silly comedies but unfortunately, they rarely make any meaningful amounts of money.
From the looks of it, you must know quite a lot about video cameras used in movie production. Guys like me would never know what lenses was used on any movie or video.
This post was promoted by @olujay in HL Community Hangout and has been selected to be curated by @lazy-panda of the Hive Learners Community.
I love this actor. Especially when you step out of your comfort zone in comedy. I really liked gems