Friday, February 25, 2005

Punch-Drunk Love

Adam Sandler's Barry is full of anger and quiet desperation (or perhaps, in honor of the late Hunter S. Thompson, it might be better to say full of fear and loathing)...a socially awkward milquetoast beaten down by life and his 7 overbearing sisters and given to sudden, explosive bouts of unadulterated, "Hulk Smash!" rage. Emily Watson's Lena is less well defined...but she falls in love with him from just seeing his photo and realizing, in the words of the Harry Nilsson song (as sung by Shelley Duvall from the soundtrack of Robert Altman's Popeye) on the soundtrack, that "he needs me...he needs me...he needs me..."

This movie is, at its heart, just a little (sometimes gentle, sometimes dark and decidedly off-center) comedy about love...all about the healing, redeeming, undeniable power of love...boy meets girl, boy realizes what's been missing from his life, boy breaks out of his shell and his rut thanks to the love of the girl...wrapped in a sometimes enigmatic package (bringing in the business of a randomly abandoned and rescued harmonium, vengeful phone sex blackmailers, an ill-conceived plan involving airline miles and "Healthy Choice" pudding, and the apparent symbolism of seemingly endless halls, 4 thuggish blond brothers, and the 7 soul-deadening sisters.)

Sandler is wonderfully understated...shy and vulnerable yet ready to explode (in more ways than one) at any moment; Watson is ethereal...hard to get a handle on yet enormously appealing and attractive just the same. I was rooting for the characters...but in a detached way, not having found much emotional connection to either of them.

There is always something about P.T. Anderson's movies that leaves me admiring them but not really becoming emotionally invested in them. It was true of Magnolia. Even true, to a lesser extent, of Boogie Nights (a movie I liked a great deal.)

And it's certainly true about this one.

(Hard Eight being an exception to this rule to an extent...but even there the characters, while nicely sketched out, seemed a bit remote and hard to connect with.)

I'll be the first to admit that maybe I just don't "get it" about Anderson's movies and leave it at that. I'm glad I saw this one...thanks again, Netflix...but I doubt that I'll ever feel the need to revisit it.

1 comment:

8o8gnsurfing said...

Aloha Mike, just passing thru via BE. Just wanted to tell you I own this movie and I think its a funny dark comedy type. I really like it.