Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Trivia: The film was inspired by an article in TIME magazine about David Phillips, a civil engineer who stumbled upon a lucrative frequent-flyer promotion. Phillips purchased 12,150 cups of Healthy Choice pudding for just $3,000, and as a result, accumulated 1.25 million air-miles
Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) is a very strange guy. He makes early morning phone calls to the Healthy Choice food company, asking questions about their frequent flier miles coupon promotion, then buys Healthy Choice pudding cups by the crate-load because he believes he’s found a loophole in the regulations. Barry also keeps a harmonium on top of his desk, and confuses his co-worker, Lance (Luiz Guzman), by showing up for work one morning wearing a blue suit. When Lance asks Barry why he’s decided to wear a suit to work for the first time ever, Barry replies that he's not really sure.
Along with being strange, Barry is also very angry, the trigger for which is his tempestuous relationship with seven older sisters. In a nutshell, they're the sisters from hell. While over one sister’s house for a birthday party, Barry sits quietly while all seven recall how angry he got as a child when they would call him “gay boy”. But Barry seems OK with it now. He’s perfectly content being the butt of their jokes…right up to the moment he puts his fist through his sister’s patio doors, shattering the glass.
Essentially, Barry’s big problem is that he’s very, very confused. One night, while clipping Healthy Choice coupons, Barry spies an ad for a phone sex line and decides to give it a call. He has no experience at phone sex, and doesn’t know how to react to the dirty talk permeating from the other end of the line. When the girl, who identifies herself as Georgia, asks Barry if he’s naked and ready, he replies, quite honestly, “no”. Barry didn’t call the sex line for physical gratification; he simply didn’t know what else to do with his time.
But things are looking up for Barry. His youngest sister, Elizabeth (Mary Lynn Rajskub) has just introduced him to her co-worker, Lena (Emily Watson), an elegant, beautiful woman who seems perfectly happy to put up with Barry's strange behavior. Unfortunately, meeting Lena coincides with a much more dramatic event unfolding in Barry's life. It seems the phone sex line he called is run by crooks, who call back demanding more money from Barry. When Barry refuses, he invokes the wrath of Deam Trumbell (Philip Seymour Hoffman), owner of a mattress store in Utah and the money man behind the sex line. Trumbell sends three goons to “collect” from Barry, kicking off a war that neither man will be willing to back down from.
The success of Punch Drunk Love comes down to the performance of Adam Sandler as Barry Egan. Sandler, a former Saturday Night Live cast member, has built a successful film career for himself playing bizarre individuals in comedies such as The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy and Happy Gilmore. In these films, Sandler exploited his character's underlying anger for comedic effect. With Barry Egan, he channels that anger, and in so doing is given an opportunity to explore both the comedic and the dramatic, proving, quite surprisingly, that he's got a knack for both.
As Sandler has shown throughout his career (though admittedly hit and miss), he can be a very funny guy. With Punch Drunk Love, he’s established himself as a genuine dramatic talent as well.