Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) is a misfit, and despite a handful of sisters, he’s not comfortable around women. He works in a warehouse selling plumbing and other hardware items, and is fascinated by a frequent flyer promotion run in conjunction with a food brand. He discovers a loophole and buys the groceries to earn a million FF miles. And one day one of his sisters introduced him to Lena (Emily Watson), who takes a shine to this oddball. Meanwhile, Barry gets into all sorts of trouble after a phone sex session, when the sex worker starts a small time extortion game on Barry, with the help of her boyfriend (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Barry finds that he seems to need Lena more and more.

A genuine original.

Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) is a lonely, frustrated man. He runs a bathroom accessories business out of a suburban warehouse, but he spends a lot of his time working out how many frequent flyer points he can accrue by buying frozen puddings.His seven sisters propose a girlfriend for Barry, the rather proper Lena, Emily Watson; but he's been foolish enough to give his details to a telephone sex company, and he's being seriously hassled by them. For Barry, the course of true love is decidedly unsmooth.

very different from Paul Thomas Anderson's previous work

Punch-Drunk Love is very different from Paul Thomas Anderson's previous work, especially from Magnolia, with its many characters and interlocking situations. The only common denominator, in fact, is the San Fernando Valley setting of all his films. It's also a major departure for Adam Sandler, the king of nerdy comedy who, apart from The Wedding Singer, has, till now, made pretty terrible movies. The revelation here is that Sandler gives a strong, painful performance as the strange, very volatile, Barry; with his sudden outbursts of violent, destructive temper and his very strange way of looking at the world, Barry is a major worry. In fact, you can't really understand what the apparently self-assured Lena sees in him.

Punch-Drunk Love
may not have the sweep of Magnolia or Boogie Nights, but it's a small gem, beautifully photographed, with striking widescreen compositions, by Robert Elswit and with a strange, insistent music track by Jon Brion. As well as the two lead actors, there's a powerful cameo performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman who, as the head of the phone sex company, displays an unstable character much like that of Barry himself. Punch-Drunk Love is a genuine original.

Comments by Margaret Pomeranz
: Paul Thomas Anderson takes you on a very weird trip with this film. It's a discomforting, wrenching romance haunted by a troubling doubt about both the central characters. The story is superbly told, acted and photographed with a superb use of widescreen and a great soundtrack. It may be a disturbing cinema experience but it's also an immensely gratifying one.