screwball: a review of Punch-drunk Love

punchdrunk.jpg In Punch-drunk Love, Paul Thomas Anderson takes the conventions of classic screwball romances and turns them inside out and upside down. Here, events seem to trip out of control, but instead of reacting with the bland aplomb of Cary Grant and the giddy delight of Carole Lombard, the characters react like actual people: they are by turns unnerved, confused, thrilled, enraged, grateful.
Similarly, Punch-drunk Love exploits the template used for Adam Sandler’s comedies by exploring it. Sandler’s Barry Egan shares a great many traits with the characters of his mainstream comedy showcases: he’s aloof but hopeful, his passive desperation interrupted by bursts of frightening hostility. Anderson cleverly employs that energy to its fullest here, where it compounds the viewer’s uneasiness.
This film is unnervingly hard to watch, with its chaotic reeling from one moment to the next — exactly as an old-school screwball comedy would be unsettling if it broke into the real world.

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