Punch-Drunk Love is a comedy. A comedy with Adam Sandler, which may sound like a verdict for connoisseurs of quality cinema. But if you didn’t watch it, not expecting anything good from the film, the main actor of which starred in films like “Pixels”, “That’s My Boy”, “Grown Ups” and the like, then you are probably still missing something. … This is not to say that “Love, knocking down” is able to appeal to absolutely every viewer, but many can experience certain positive emotions from watching it. It is not for nothing that she was nominated at the Cannes Film Festival and even won an award for Best Director.
Speaking of the director. Paul Thomas Anderson is the man who gave us, among others, Oil, Magnolia, Masters, and Phantom Thread; a man who has been repeatedly nominated for an Oscar. His repertoire includes films of different genres, and all of them are interesting in their own way. Paul Thomas Anderson creates films as full-fledged, complete, multifaceted and even somewhat monolithic stories, in which there are no extra or missing details. And Knockdown Love turned out to be just that kind of film as well.
Barry Egan – funny but not comedic
The first epithet that comes to mind for the Adam Sandler character in this project is strange. Strange, not entirely adequate, unsure of himself, having obvious psychological problems, suffering from these problems, forced to squeeze into the framework that he himself set for himself (however, not without the influence of the world around him). And if it had been another movie starring Adam Sandler, we might have laughed at it. They just laughed and had fun, looking at how revealingly ridiculous he was.
But this is not the case here. Of course, the comical situations that Barry Egan sometimes finds himself in still cause certain bursts of laughter, but the character himself does not act as a clown here at all. This is an imperfect, suffering, rushing, and at the same time a rather beautiful person inside, with whom every viewer can feel some kind of kinship. After all, we all sometimes lack courage and determination, self-confidence. We all act irrationally and stupidly at times. And we all sometimes forget about the instinct of self-preservation and draw courage and strength from some unknown bins to take care of those we love.
What does love do to us?
This film is not an arthouse, and the viewer does not have to puzzle for a long time in an effort to unravel its idea. The life of Barry Egan is abruptly changed by the love that suddenly fell on his head in the person of the charming Lena Leonard: light, positive, spring, like a warm summer breeze with the scent of blooming flowers. With all this, Lena is by no means idealized: she also turned out to be a completely lively and realistic character, with her own characteristics, her complexes, her bewilderment from what is happening. As well as, incidentally, with his ability to consider something worthwhile in a person who is absurd at first glance and gradually become fascinated by him.
For Barry Egan, this warm summer breeze acts more like a hurricane. To his own surprise, he, previously deprived of the pleasure and happiness of love, permanently lonely and more than accustomed to this status, feels his heart thaw. And as idealistic and corny as it is, this is what happens to each of us. Even if we close ourselves off from the whole world, acquire the ability to live without thick threads of an unbreakable bond stretching from us to other people, we are still not immune from love. We are not immune to one day meeting a person for whom we want to make an exception, with whom we want something more than what we are used to. Which will become our air and our salvation, even if we swore to ourselves that we would not allow anyone to become someone so important to us.
So Barry discovers new sides in himself as he gets closer to Lena: sometimes awkward and ridiculous, but still pretty cute. From a muffled muffler, he gradually turns into a man. Let, again, a peculiar man, and not having lost his problems as if by a wave of a magic wand, but still decisive, courageous, responsible and reliable. Very reliable in its own way, which does not hide from the attention of his beloved.
Be careful with phone sex
The showdown part of the showdown over Barry’s call to the phone sex line serves two main purposes. Firstly, it adds humor to the film: after all, it is still a comedy, and if there was nothing funny in it, it would have turned out to be too serious and dramatic for a humorous genre. Secondly, in a cheerful form it serves to reveal the character of Barry Egan and acts as a kind of additional scene on which the disclosure of strong traits of his character unfolds.
But, in general, it’s funny in itself: how far a person can go, refusing to become a victim of petty extortion. And how far can dishonest people go in an effort to punish someone who is brave enough to defend their rights and honor. Even if this is all pure fiction, a story invented for entertainment, it is not as far from life as one might think. In modern conditions, it is really quite easy to run into scammers, but it is very difficult to defend your case.
Superfluous person concept
Perhaps one of the reasons why “Knocking Love” is still worth watching is the very concept of an extra, unnecessary, unformatted person, which has always been popular and is invariably relevant. In fact, the film Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson also tells about such people – only there are several stories there. And this, in fact, is a really topical and vital topic, and regardless of times and eras.
There will always be criteria and rules according to which someone will be successfully integrated into society, and someone will remain on the sidelines. Moreover: at a certain stage of his life, almost every person will always feel like the one who turned out to be superfluous, unnecessary at this celebration of life. For some it goes away, for some it does not. Someone finds people who notice his essence, despite non-standard external manifestations, and communicates with them without feeling like such an outcast. Someone remains alone and expects only the worst from people, fearing to feel at least some kind of sympathy for them.
This topic is almost limitless, and it is possible to reveal it, to create situations for the characters that will force them to break, to break the ossified cocoon in which they have imprisoned their souls, can be very diverse. Still, for this film, Paul Thomas Anderson chose the most romantic option – sincere, warm, all-consuming, growing love. The most romantic and perhaps the most urgent and most eternal.
“Love knocking down” can be watched in order to have a good time. Or in order to believe: your happiness will surely find you, even if now it seems to you that there is nothing to hope for. Or in order to better understand yourself and the people around you and, perhaps, learn to treat them less prejudice. Remove from our eyes the filter imposed by society and lose the ability to distinguish “unnecessary” people from “necessary” ones.