Inexplicably, I slept on this for a long time. A decade and a half later, after having the urge to take it in, I am not overly impressed. On an aesthetic level, this is beautiful. Lean, stripped bare – stark cinematography complimented by a lilting harmonium-laced score. Further than that? Conventional rom-com plot slammed against a more charming and unique extortionist plot. Enjoyable, but also kind of irritating.
This is probably the most European feel PTA achieved behind the camera. The story is mesmerising throughout the first half or more with string of oddities coming at you, so you can't get a break, which makes for rather zippy experience. Good acting too and great camera work.
The camera choreography and musical accompaniment are really what make this film so great. It creates such impeccable tension centered around Barry. Adam Sandler seemed to be a perfect casting choice, given our preconceived notions of the typecast he's made for himself in his own comedies. If you were to transfer that character into a more dramatic background, there's no question it'd look like this, and it works.
PUNCH-DRUNK clearly invokes the time and place of its own making in a fascinating way; it is a movie that is outside of history, or only indexes movie history (as was not uncustomary at the time), but it is essentially 'all spirit.' Early colour cinema was clearly 'punch-drunk' w/ its own possibilities. PUNCH-DRUNK is the same kind of 'punch-drunk.' The contact high is still strong w/ this one, these many years aft.
I won’t make the argument that this is Anderson’s greatest film, but it just might be my favorite. It’s painful how much I feel like I relate to Barry here (partly because I so understand the world he’s living in, partly because it’s Adam Sandler for Christ’s sake). It’s flabbergasting how good Sandler is in this. It’s like Jim Carrey in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”: I just didn’t know he could do that.
****1/2 Such lovely, sweet use of space and color; such tension in the sound and in the cutting (too much and too thick, it seems to me sometimes, but my experience of that shifts slightly, and I go up and down a half-star, from viewing to viewing) between chaos, mundaneness, serenity, and beauty.