Thursday, March 15, 2007


one of my favorite things in the world is the moment of realization. the wake up call when suddenly you see or hear or understand something that had previously gone unnoticed. it fills you up with pride and revelation. it borders on epiphany.

for a film to be considered for "favorites" status, it needs to hold up to repeated viewings. if i state that a movie is one of my favorites, it means i've willingly watched and enjoyed it, on some level, at least half a dozen times.

Punch-Drunk Love is one of my favorite movies.

in fact, all of P.T.Anderson's films would fall into that category. Magnolia, Hard Eight, Boogie Nights. even the video he did for Fiona Apple's version of "Across The Universe". but today, i'm just focusing on one, Punch-Drunk Love, and the moment of realization.

the movie is fairly unconventional in many ways. Adam Sandler starred in his first non-comedic role. Jon Brion composed another wonderful score. Jeremy Blake, a video artist who also did the album art for Beck's "Sea Change", contributed the dreamy segues and subtle special effect overlays. critically, it wasn't received well.

here we go. Sandler plays the part of Barry Egan. he's a horribly lonely man who runs a warehouse of novelty goods. he discovers an error in a healthy choice offer, which pays out frequent flyer miles for UPC's from healthy choice products. realizing that they've overlooked their pudding, he begins purchasing all the inexpensive healthy choice pudding he can find to accumulate a vast amount of miles for a relatively small investment. throughout it all, Barry suffers from deep depression and loneliness as a result of the lifelong torment and bullying of his seven older sisters. he teeters constantly on the verge of a total breakdown. he's incredibly insecure. he's a pathological liar. he has violent, self destructive outbursts. he has anger management issues and problems expressing himself. he has an anxiety disorder. he's generally mentally damaged all around. one morning, one of his sisters calls to inform Barry of her intent to set him up with her coworker, Lena. he panics and avoids it. then she brings her by his warehouse and somehow, she finds him sweet and asks him out to dinner. she's sweet, compassionate, tolerant, honest and wholesome, he's so very flawed, and yet they fall for each other. then, a problem arises and he abandons her. when he returns, he asks for forgiveness and enough time to get all the frequent flyer miles he has coming to him so he can travel with her (for her job) and never leave her again. the film end apparently after this time has passed. Lena suddenly walks into Barry's warehouse, wraps her arms around him, and says the words, "Here we go."

romantic, right? the two kids made it work. that's what i thought at first, but then immediately thought it was bound to fail. she'd never really gotten the full view of Barry that, we, the viewers, had. she wasn't aware of how mentally stressed he was. as positive as the ending seemed at first, i immediately doomed the relationship. i figured it was only a matter of time before this "perfect" girl found out what Barry was really like and split. Lena just seemed too good for him. she just hadn't realized it yet.

then i had my moment of realization. the movie is chock full of symbols and metaphors (which i totally adore. i'll probably write a post on that alone one day). Barry wears blue all the way through the movie. Lena, for the most part, wears red. He meets Lena in the very beginning, though he didn't know she was the girl he would later find out that his sister was trying to set him up with. she shows up in a red dress and asks Barry if he can watch her car until the garage next door opens up. shortly afterward, Barry goes to the grocery store to try and find the cheapest Healthy Choice product. The camera is face to face with Sandler as he walks past the ends of each aisle. in the background, slightly out of focus, Lena parallels his path at the opposite end of the aisles. he turns, and she quickly ducks away. i'd never noticed this until recently and it changed the whole film for me. Lena is stalking Barry. the dropping off of her car could easily be passed off as curiosity, but when added to the grocery store stalking, it changes to something more. Lena even mentions that she saw a photo of him and had to meet him. she's has flaws and secrets as well.

its a happy ending now... sort of.

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