The opening sequence is at dawn, when we find our hero Barry Egan (Adam
Sandler) sitting at his desk and talking strangely on the phone. He hangs
up, ambles outside his manufacturing office in a semi-catatonic state. We
then have a view up the street when two headlights approach at good speed.
One, it turns out is a truck. It also turns out that it flips over with a
small explosion, sliding off screen. Seconds later, a van pulls up directly
outside the driveway of Egan's business and plops a harmonium on the street.
Never are these pieces of business explained. The harmonium becomes an oft
used prop but the truck is never again seen or alluded to.
I recount these details in an effort to make sense of the title. The person
who was punch-drunk, it would seem, was Paul Thomas Anderson when he wrote
the screenplay and directed the movie in a style that suggests struggle with
Okay, so it's off beat. So it's a whole different reality for Adam Sandler.
So, it's full of gaping holes in logic, unanswered questions, erratic
cutting, but is it bad? It has a profusion of confusion, a pseudo-autistic
hero, and a stream of nonsequitirs. It's also not entirely bad.
What makes it win out in the end is the underlying love story, fully abled
and abetted by a lustrous Emily Watson who plays Lena Leonard, a woman who is
evidently in search of a shy wallflower given to bouts of serious withdrawal.
It's not so easy to woo someone who is uncomfortable in your presence.
The strategies that she goes to, combined with a few moves of required
aggresiveness, ultimately penetrates the thick wall of fear and discomfort
surrounding Egan. As he deals with that he must also deal with the
Arizona-based ring of scam artists that Egan made contact with when he dialed
up a sex service. They come to wreck him when he makes demands to get his
money back. The outcome of this story arc will thrill and amaze you.
Director Anderson's style of erratic behavior and personally fabricated
reality (see "Magnolia") seems a good mask for Sandler's dire limitations as
an actor. The reason to see it, though, is neither of those things. It is
Emily Watson, who finds a way in her stores of emotional depth to elevate the
comedic enterprise to a fascinating study of attraction in something you
wouldn't expect to be satisfying circumstances.
~~ Jules Brenner