Sunday, October 20, 2002

Punch-Drunk Love (IMDB) (Netflix)
If you were a guy with seven sisters who liked to call you "Gay Boy," you might be a lot like Adam Sandler's character, Barry, a struggling, lonely entrepreneur with a torqued-up psyche and a few anger management issues. In an effort to connect with someone, anyone, he gets caught up with some predatory criminal types, and the girl he doesn't deserve (played by Emily Watson, who was very affecting in the recent Red Dragon and last year's Gosford Park).

This is not your typical Sandler, the comedian-writer-producer whose patron saint can only be H.L. Mencken, but a deft romantic comedy from Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights and Magnolia). The offbeat story and score, plus Barry's mix of mostly affable pathologies, create this not-unpleasant tension that's broken periodically by small eruptions of violence between Barry and the bad guys, and sweetness between him and Watson, who wisely underplays her part to balance off the manic Barry/Sandler. A small movie that plays big.