A dark comedy centering around Barry Egan, the socially impaired owner of a small business-distributing novelty toilet plungers-in the San Fernando Valley. Dominated by seven sisters, and constantly negotiating his own manhood, he is unlikely to find romance unless romance finds him. In an attempt to resolve his loneliness, while having a vulnerable moment, Barry contacts a phone sex operator who, in turn threatens him with blackmail. Connected to a larger business network, the operator sends some thugs on a mission from Utah to California, to follow, scare, and extort Barry. Barry becomes desperate, until a new door opens in his life. Therefore, when one of his sisters fixes him up with a lovely young English woman, Lena--who has rather quirky qualities herself--his emotions go haywire, fluctuating between lust, self-doubt, and uncontrollable rage. Nonetheless, Barry will embark upon whatever adventure it takes, just to have a shot at true romance.
In collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia"), Adam Sandler, without shaking off his familiar angry doofus persona, becomes the most improbable and inspired romantic hero in some time. He plays Barry Egan, an awkward, volatile bathroom-supply salesman who collects pudding in his spare time and who is harassed by his seven sisters and ensnared in a phone sex extortion scam. Into the chaos of Barry's life — brilliantly orchestrated by Mr. Anderson, with help from John Brion, who composed the swooning, percussive score — comes Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), who falls in love with him for no good reason. Which is fitting, since this movie delights in its own irrational, exuberant romanticism, and will leave you in a flushed, intoxicated state best captured by its title. — A. O. Scott
2002-10-05 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Punch-Drunk Love