Punch Drunk Love (2002) Movie Review

By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –

Adam Sandler plays Barry Egan, a quick-tempered man with serious anger problems who also hates himself. He owns a small company and runs it out of a warehouse. He is the only brother with 7 sisters who all are serious triggers for Barry. One day he meets Lena Leonard (Emily Watson) and everything changes. She seems to be the calming presence that Barry has been searching for and he’ll do anything for her to keep her in his life. All while he gets tangled up with a phone sex operator who steals his credit card info. It’s a wonderful study of mental illness and love.

A Toast

Adam Sandler is the perfect fit to play Barry Egan. I’m not really a fan of Sandler’s films, but he had no hand in writing or directing this film (Paul Thomas Anderson did both), which is why this is Sandler’s best film ever. He is able to go into a blind rage and remain comical. By far his best moments are when he is arguing with Philip Seymour Hoffman over the phone regarding his employee, the sex phone operator, who stole his credit card information. Then when Barry tracks him down and confronts him in person is brilliant. Adam and Philip have clear chemistry and it’s a riot to watch. Sandler is one the few actors who can furiously yell at someone and it be hilarious. That mixed with his ability to go from enraged to calm in a split second is very convincing.

I think the portrayal of someone with anger problems is very accurate. They have major triggers which set their anger off much quicker; in this case it’s Barrys’ sisters. They’re unflinchingly mean to Barry. They want better for Barry, but at the same time they think they know what is best for Barry when in fact that is usually not what Barry wants. Does that sound familiar with parents, anyone? Other times it’s little things that begin to pile up and then that person will end up exploding. Imagine holding an apple, then instead of someone taking the apple, they add a couple more. This is repeated several times- eventually you’re going to drop the apples. That’s what it’s like, once the annoyance first happens, every other annoyance after that just keeps piling up until it blows up.

What is brilliant by PTA and composer Jon Brion is using the score to help illuminate how Barry’s anger issue works. As more people bug Barry and pull him in complete different directions and his sisters keeping asking him if he’s coming to their party Barry seems to become more frantic, and in turn the music begins to get louder, almost distracting from the dialogue. This is a great way for the audience to experience what Barry goes through when his rage begins to boil. What is also great is whenever Barry and Lena are together the music becomes calm or subsides, thus showing us that Lena is great for Barry. Lena provides that calming presence that Barry desperately needs and has been searching for his whole life.


Punch-Drunk Love is a hilariously quirky film about mental illness and love. Watching this film provides hope for everyone that they could find a love like Barry and Lena’s. One that is pure and beautiful. This film is a must watch for someone looking to get into Paul Thomas Anderson. I suggest getting the Criterion Version on Blu-Ray.

Punch Drunk Love (2002) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Barry has a freak out

Take a Drink: for every mention of ‘pudding’, ‘Healthy Choice’, and ‘frequent flyer miles’

Do a Shot: for every phone call

Pound a Beer: to hope to find a love like Barry and Lena

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