I have an extraordinary
amount of experience in not talking to girls. There are few, if
any, who have mastered the skill of sitting in a corner, brooding
silently when there is an attractive girl present as well as I have.
I can do it for hours without tiring, and I can run through an entire
relationship with the girl in my head without ever saying a word
When I sit in
the corner of the bar nursing a draft of the cheapest beer on tap,
I imagine walking up to the girl, saying hello, being charming and
clever, winning her heart. In my mind, we go on a date and have
a wonderful time. In my mind, I always pay for the meals and rarely
steal tips off other tables. We're a perfect couple and she is devoted
to me. In my mind, I do everything I can to make this relationship
work, even resisting telling her to get braces and shave her pubic
hair more neatly. Something always happens, though. Maybe we have
a little imaginary argument because I didn't take out the trash.
Maybe she's really stupid and doesn't want to watch "American
Idol" or play Strip Yahtzee with me. She starts hounding me
about getting a job and not drinking all her cough syrup. There
is an accident and I kill her dog. It's the dog's fault, but she
irrationally yells at me that I shouldn't use the wood chipper when
I'm drunk. Well, what the fuck? When else is it fun to use? Whatever,
the little imaginary arguments snowball, and soon we are not speaking;
we're sleeping in different rooms, we're not returning the calls
from the reception hall or the photographer. I've gone into a weeklong
drunken funk, waiting for her to come to her senses and apologize.
In my mind,
the pretty girl across the bar does not come to her senses. She
moves out of the apartment and starts screwing her ex-boyfriend,
the former priest with the Pontiac Fiero. Fuck her, I tell myself.
I am emboldened by happy hour's two-for-one drinks, and on my way
out, I stop by her seat.
I spit out before I stumble into the blinding yellow sunshine of
The pretty girl
doesn't understand me. All she knows is that I'm an intoxicated
stranger with a foul mouth, but that's only part of who I am. In
total, I am a thoughtful, deep person, prone to sensible and justified
acts of dark violence and self-inflicted humiliation. If I had the
courage to speak to her, she'd know that. Or, better yet, if I found
a girl who could read my mind--only the good thoughts, not the ones
where I am thinking about boobies or stealing my neighbors Christmas
decorations--she would know the depth of my well. I knew a girl
once who could read my mind, but after a couple of days, she didn't
want to anymore.
My shyness is
a handicap I have to live with. When I say "Fuck you"
to a girl who's minding her own business, or "those ducks in
the creek are planning something," I'm not crazy. I'm stating
the product of a complex internal process.
Barry Eagan is supposed to be like that in Punch Drunk Love.
He confounds those around him with his shyness and bursts of violent
rage. He is paralyzed by his inability to communicate or articulate
his feelings. When he does manage to express himself, his gaggle
of interfering sisters humiliate him for the effort.
his own small business, peddling novelty toilet plungers. He hasn't
had a girlfriend in ages. He lives by himself in a tiny apartment,
with nobody to talk to except phone-sex operators. He's afraid of
almost everyone because of their ability to shatter his fragile
psyche, and he confides in his brother-n-law that he doesn't like
himself and cries sometimes.
When we first
see him, he watches a one-car accident and doesn't try to help.
Instead, he steals a harmonium that is mysteriously dropped off
in front of him. He meets Emily Watson, a co-worker of one sister's
who appears to be nearly as fragile as him and is attracted to him.
The power of love is then supposed to go to work and draw Sandler
out of his shell. Her gentleness and love is supposed to overcome
his social awkwardness, and by the end we're supposed to see his
is the phone sex line he called was a scam and its owner (Philip
Seymour Hoffman) is extorting him. They send thugs to beat him up,
and hurt Watson. Sandler must come out of his shell to defend himself,
not for himself, but for the woman he loves.
It would be
a nice story, really, except that it never justifies its existence.
Much of Punch Drunk Love relies on the old Hollywood axiom:
banality plus time equals poignancy. Scenes are drawn and small
acts are emphasized, without ever building to much. A consistent
tone would have helped, too. I like comedy and I like bleak, but
the mixture is like someone alternately shoveling ice cream and
steak into my mouth.
is a complete cypher. She comes from nowhere, and is given no personality
of her own. She just serves the plot as what Sandler's character
needs: an overly tolerant, forgiving near saint who is agrressive
enough to draw him out. The story would have been much more interesting
if two fully-developed desperate people stumbled upon each other,
rather than one finding someone too perfect to even be real. She
pursues Sandler without knowing him. But why? He's not handsome.
He doesn't look sensitive. The movie doesn't give him any quality
that would draw a woman's attention. I mean, if girls found desperation
and inarticulateness sexy, my retard cousin Larry would be wearing
out the Trojan condom factory.
also never becomes sympathetic. In the first scene, he watches a
car flip and doesn't do a God-damn thing to help the people in it.
He's self-absorbed and immature. Through the rest of the story,
he finds love because the perfect girl forces him too, but there's
no evidence he's any less self-absorbed or immature. As long as
I'm paying my money, I want to see a character whose redemption
has meaning beyond his little worlds. Some reason to care.
still can't fucking act, but at least he's trying. Sure, a bunch
of people will scream "Oscar!" because they don't give
a fuck about acting, just celebrities playing against type. It's
like Gwyneth Paltrow playing a junkie or Daniel Day Lewis playing
a cripple. This movie is certainly better than Sandler's fuckwit
low-brow comedies, but if this is as good Sandler gets when he's
trying really, really hard, he's no Ricardo Montalban. It's most
noticeable in the quiet scenes where he draws nothing from his face
except expressionlessness. There is no subtlety or depth, just a
chubby face staring at the camera.
was never that Sandler is talentless, it's always been that he's
too fucking lazy to use the talent he has. His movies always represent
the bare minimum required to be a movie. Punch Drunk Love
is an improvement, but not in the right direction. It's an old tradition
for comedic actors to appear in big, dramatic movies in order to
be taken seriously. Then they can get gold trophies to shove up
their asses and finally feel that they are respected. What Sandler
needs, though, is just better comedies. What the fuck is wrong with
Thomas Anderson pulls out a lot of stops to make this a pretty picture
to watch. He stages a few beautiful and touching scenes, but I still
don't know why. The material doesn't warrant it, and the scenes
feel like they came from better movies. He also never settles on
a tone. Is this comedy or drama? Is it both? Then why aren't the
jokes funnier, or why isn't the drama more meaningful?
In the end,
Punch Drunk Love feels like a somewhat successful experiment,
done mostly for the sake of seeing it could be. It isn't driven
by any passion, and the characters aren't comelling enough to have
their stories told. In its best moments, though, it's awfully sweet.
to tell Filthy Something?