Movie Reviews

bellview--i love movies

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

Movie Awards
2004 Roundup
2005 Roundup
2006 Roundup
2007 Roundup
2008 Roundup
2009 Roundup


"Punch-Drunk Love"

Directed by P.T. Anderson.
Written by P.T. Anderson. 
Starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  10/29/02 


I guess you could say that I am a fan of director Paul Thomas Anderson (now, PT Anderson), but I think that his films have been decreasing in value with each new effort.  My favorite is still “Hard Eight”, with Philip Baker Hall and Samuel L. Jackson; it is a great film driven by the performances by Hall and John C. Reilly.  Then came “Boogie Nights”, which has an incredible first 70% but gets bad in the final half-hour when Don Cheadle prances around aimlessly and Mark Wahlberg prostitutes himself in parked cars.  “Magnolia” has great moments—and, Tom Cruise’s best work in years—but ultimately, tries to do too much in its three-hour run time, including throwing raining frogs into the mix to send us a message.

So, we come to this, and the big hoopla around this film is the performance of Adam Sandler as a romantic lead in “Punch-Drunk Love” and his performance is pretty good.  But, the role is so close to many of Sandler’s other characters—a half-wit, with stupid-boy charm and a violent, ahem, “Happy Gilmore”-like tendency to beat the hell out of people to restore order on occasion—that I wondered why everyone thought this was such a stretch for Sandler.  Here, he plays Barry Egan, a bathroom products salesman that has seven sisters and a messed-up head attached to his shoulders.  Lonely and confused, he looks for a psychic and instead calls a phone-sex line headed up by Dean (Philip Seymour Hoffman, an Anderson regular), and through a series of mishaps ends up on the run from Dean’s twisted henchman in Los Angeles.  Luckily for Barry, he has recently met a woman named Lena (Emily Watson) who adores him and happens to be going to Hawaii soon; to get out of town and avoid the repo men, Barry heads off to Hawaii to be with Lena.

As usual, Anderson’s visual style and use of silence and long master shots is very good, and I liked the way he stuck with Sandler for so many of the film’s shots as he had full conversations with other characters without cutting back and forth between characters.  Although Sandler has done this kind of character before, he was still very good at it and added enough fresh perspectives on this character type to be entertaining.  However, those coming to the theater looking for a lot of Sandler’s physical comedy will be disappointed by this film, because there is not much in the way of laughter at the expense of, say, Sandler falling down or kicking the crap out of a dog.  This is mostly romantic drama, with a few laughs thrown in to lighten the mood.  Watson is an interesting choice for this film; for reasons that I can’t really explain, seeing her across the dinner table from Sandler in a romantic setting was mostly intriguing because I felt that in real life, that would never happen.

Wait, that is what it is about the entire romantic crux of “Punch-Drunk Love”—would an educated, refined, well-traveled, attractive older English woman ever go out with a dimwit that runs a bathroom products business, has a tendency towards violence and is a pathological liar?  Or, more to the point...

Would Emily Watson EVER go out with Adam Sandler?  Look, I know that I’m a fucking idiot, but there is no way you can ask me to suspend my disbelief for 90 minutes and trick me into believing that this romance could ever happen!  And, what makes it even more surprising is that Watson’s character lusts after Sandler’s character.  She plots to meet him, asks him out, calls him to come up to her room to “hang out”, and seems to want to spend a good portion of her life with him!!  No, no, no!

Otherwise, this is, uh, great stuff.

Rating:  Matinee


Comments?  Drop me a line at


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09