Barry (played by Adam Sandler) is the owner of a small quietly flourishing toilet plunger business. The film opens with him sitting at his desk in the corner of a large empty room with royal blue cement walls and no windows. He is wearing a royal blue suit and is on the phone asking earnest questions about frequent flyer miles from an obviously tired and annoyed sales person. He then takes his coffee, opens the huge garage door to his office/factory and walks outside and down to the highway. As he stares contemplatively off at the morning sky, a red car violently crashes tip over end down the street followed by a red taxi (is it the same car?) that screeches up to the curb and a pair of hands plunk a small piano down on the ground and the taxi screeches off.
Thus begins Punch Drunk Love. A story about Barry, a man who seems to have gotten stuck as a pre-adolescent boy. He has seven sisters and all of them seem intent on keeping him frozen in life as the boy child. There are no parents anywhere, it is as if he has seven bullying mothers. He alternates between apologizing for his existence and erupting in fits of rage that always ends in the destruction of something. Barry asks his brother in-law to help him with his anger and uncontrollable crying problem ” I don’t know if anything is wrong because I don’t know how other people are”. He tells people “I don’t know” a lot and lies about what he does know. Being so lonely, innocent and socially awkward gets Barry in serious trouble with a sleazy phone sex operation (he tell the woman she sounds “nice and personable”). He meets a beautiful woman Lena (Emily Watson) and is such an oddball in her company that just when you wonder what her attraction to him is a song plays as if to explain “because he needs me” (sung by a woman who sounds like shes had a few cocktails).
The story is all at once funny and heart wrenching and there are many dangerous cars involved. It is stark and…well, “punch drunk” comes to mind. Adam Sandler is Barry, he nailed this part to perfection.
Paul Thomas Anderson wrote the script and directed the film. He uses dizzy spinning camera techniques, cacophonies of mechanical circus music and people all talking at once combined with absolutely still scenes to create tension. There are some strange hallucinogenic interludes of blurry color punctuated throughout the movie that also make you feel woozy and off balance. Many scenes are filmed in real time; his sex line experience and when he gets lost in Lena’s apt building, which make them all the more painful and real to watch.
Barry comes through for us in the end. He sets the bad guy straight and vows to put the pudding to use.