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Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Punch-Drunk Love
Just returned from a screening of Punch-Drunk Love, P.T. Anderson's new film, starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson. Yes, you read right: Adam Sandler of Waterboy, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, Little Nicky, and "The Hannukah Song" fame. Emily Watson of Breaking the Waves, Hilary and Jackie, and Gosford Park renown. Apparently, this was the first public screening of the movie, and ... PTA and Adam Sandler were on hand to creep us out and do a Q and A.

The film itself is good, on the whole. A damaged, hurt guy is trying desperately to be normal, trying to make it in the world, deal with his family (he has seven sisters), and find the elusive place where he isn’t alone and weird. The world seems to terrify him, and the movie’s soundtrack—not just the music, which is great, but also the amplified, terrifying noise of everyday life—also makes viewers cower in fear of the next burst of noise. If you ignore all the “business” of the movie—the little tics and idiosyncrasies that young filmmakers like P.T. Anderson and Wes Anderson seem to love to lard up their movies with—Punch-Drunk Love is basically a tortured, sometimes hard-to-look-at tale of love taking away the staggering amount of pain and discomfort that sometimes saturates everyday life.

Adam Sandler really isn’t bad at all. My movie-going companion and I agreed that he handled the movie surprisingly well. If he hadn’t, the film would’ve been an utter disaster: He’s onscreen for about 85 of the movie’s 90 minutes; running, hurting, and finally loving. He manages to combine the best qualities of both a great silent movie star, Basil Fawlty, and the lead in a musical—he struggles, he shouts, he dances. Yes, Adam Sandler is good.

Emily Watson is brilliant. She’s a calm, quiet, lovely presence in the middle of utter chaos. She could quiet anyone’s demons, and when she reaches Barry (Sandler) as he’s leaving her building and tells him she’d wanted to kiss him, and he runs, trying crazily to find wherever he was before she threw that lifeline, when the door opens and they find one another, it’s a beautiful romantic moment that happens so rarely in the cinema.

Ah, but PTA is an asshole. Out in front at the Cinerama, he twitched, he scratched, he was hip. I wanted to hit him with those sedation darts you shoot wild animals with. The crowd of PTAholics was obnoxious—the inappropriate laughter that plagues young directors’ movies was in full force. One young devotee in the audience blurted that the movie was “fucking Golden Age.” Whatever. At one point, PTA put his disheveled head on the annoying MC’s breasts. Dude, next time you’re out in public, treat the audience with a bit of respect. Your movie deserves better.