Slash Film

The antics in “Punch-Drunk Love,” as well as its central love story, could come from any Adam Sandler movie, meaning Paul Thomas Anderson fulfilled the job he set out to do. Still, the movie feels wildly different from anything else in Sandler’s filmography, even the rare dramatic roles he has done since like the Safdie Brothers’ “Uncut Gems,” another movie where the filmmakers knew their lead actor had to be Sandler. 

The movie is funny and sweet, but also bizarre and surreal, leaning into Barry’s character with dynamic camera moves and impressionistic flourishes. For as much as Anderson had hoped to make a traditional, 90-minute Adam Sandler movie, he couldn’t help but make a PTA movie as well, a best-of-both-worlds ride through the actor’s formula for a successful movie.

As Anderson told Roger Ebert in 2002, the feeling the actor gave him was one of joy. The same joy he felt watching a movie like Robert Altman’s “Nashville,” another ensemble epic that became a touchstone for Anderson’s ’90s work. While freely associating Adam Sandler with Robert Altman might have been a uniquely Anderson-ian connection, that sense of joy and love is fully on display here, of a director knowing the unique strengths of his leading man and leaning into it with gusto.

/Film – ‘Slash Film: Why Paul Thomas Anderson Was Dead Set On Casting Adam Sandler In Punch-Drunk Love’
Author: Anthony Crislip
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January 15, 2023

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