Adam Sandler has made a lot of money out of playing in puerile comedies where his body-of-a-man, mind-of-a-boy personas have the gross-out slapstick on high and his socially inept but basically nice guy underneath. In Punch-Drunk Love (Sat 9 930P), Sandler plays Barry Egan, essentially the same character as in other movies but with the comedy on ‘mute.’ What we are left is a slightly uneasy portrait of a man who has is socially awkward, has uncontrollable outbursts of anger and has a harmonium (accordion piano) dumped outside his down-town warehouse. I have seen this film a few times now and I’m still not exactly sure what the harmonium means. The tentative, discordant tones early on gradually swell to provide the main theme, a reprisal of Olive Oyl’s ‘He Needs Me.’ The audible shocks are meant to give us a fright too. They put us slightly on edge, just like our main character.
PDL is brought to us by Paul Thomas Anderson whose previous works, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, focus on disparate characters who come to each other’s aid in expected and unexpected ways. Emily Watson plays Lena, a friend of one of Barry’s sisters (of whom he has 7, no wonder he experiences outbursts of anger). She is attracted to Barry and they begin a relationship which evolves over the course of the film. Through Lena, Barry finds love and a means though which he can begin to ‘understand’ life. “I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine.”
As with Wes Anderson pictures, a lot of PT Anderson’s jokes (no relation by the way, although I do note that I share the same birthday as him, same year too, maybe we’re related ?) are in the background. By casting the incomparable Luis Guzman as his warehouse foreman, there are no shortage of mini-calamities that occur all around the edges but no-one draws attention to them. It is said that the collection of puddings acquired and stored in the warehouse talk to each other too but I haven’t picked that up yet.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, an Anderson regular, has a great cameo as a mattress salesman and his showdown with Barry toward the end provides some of the memorable highlights of the film’s dialogue.
To say that it is an unconventional love story would be to cite the obvious. While its not for everybody I can’t help but recommend it. 4 stars from me.
Moulin Rouge (Fri 7 12midday) is a Baz Luhrmann/Catherine Martin Spectacular, Spectacular : one providing the direction and music, the other the costumes and dance. A love story quite different from PDL : MR is over the top, beautiful, tragic, funny and serious. Nicole and Ewan McGregor lead a fine cast and add to their accomplishment by doing all their own singing. Casting credits include Richard Roxburgh, Jim Broadbent and John Leguizamo and support from well known Australians, Garry McDonald, David Wenham, Christine Anu and Kylie Minogue.
Next Thursday, the Jarmusch debut film from 1980 screens, Permanent Vacation (SBS 1030P). I am one-quarter through the Jarmusch films screened (there have been four, this is one is five) and I will provide some sort of report at the end of it. Expect words like “independent film-maker” to be used a lot.