We got out of the house last night and went to see a movie: Punch Drunk Love. Dislaimer: I am not a big fan of Adam Sandler. However, this is a pretty good flim, mostly because it puts all of Sandler's manic shouting and physical comedy into a character who is really, seriously, debilitatingly angry at the world. Rather than his previous characters who were annoyingly antisocial and reveled in it, Sandler's character in Punch Drunk Love is antisocial and deeply troubled by it -- he's extremely lonely, but so shy and so repressed that he is unable to do anything about it, except by exploding into rage and destroying restaraunt bathrooms and plate glass windows. It's startling how quickly Sandler switches back and forth between his mild-mannered and angry personas, creating a tension that lasts almost the entire movie. The tension is only broken by the occasional bit of physical comedy (Sandler, running from a squad of goons, makes a sort of frantic nasal panting sound that is both scary and funny; the comedy here is usually dark and in unexpected places) or a few moments where Sandler's character just seems happy (dancing in a supermarket, talking gently with his love interest).
If you're expecting a romantic comedy, as the slow-mo, soft-music trailers for the movie seem to suggest, you will be pretty disappointed. The middle-aged couples to either side of us at the theater sighed loudly when the credits started to roll. "Well that was just about the worst possible choice," one man said. "At least we had a good dinner beforehand," said a woman to our right. Likewise, if you want another Adam Sandler movie like Happy Gilmore or Big Daddy, you'll also be disappointed. (Thank god.) After all, the movie's director is Paul Thomas Anderson (I can't decide if I think the usage of his full name in every single reference to him is overly pretentious, or just the right amount), who directed Magnolia a few years ago. Unlike that film, Punch Drunk Love is not interminably long, but the two films share a coincidental intersection of a set of strange people in absurd situations. But where Magnolia eventually just got ridiculous (and really, really long), Punch Drunk Love is more restrained. At the core is really Sandler's character, and he's actually pretty neat to watch.