Punch-Drunk Love

Punch-Drunk Love

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Produced by
Written by Paul Thomas Anderson
Music by Jon Brion
Cinematography Robert Elswit
Edited by Leslie Jones
Distributed by
Release dates
  • May 19, 2002 (2002-05-19) (Cannes)
  • November 1, 2002 (2002-11-01) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million[1]
Box office $24.7 million[1]

Punch-Drunk Love is a 2002 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzmán, and Mary Lynn Rajskub.

After the release of his previous film Magnolia (which ran over three hours), Anderson stated that he would like to work with Adam Sandler in the future and that he was determined to make his next film ninety minutes long.[2] The film was produced by Revolution Studios and New Line Cinema, and distributed by Columbia Pictures; it features the video art of Jeremy Blake in the form of visual interludes. The film received positive reviews from critics, with Sandler's performance receiving unanimous critical praise, but just barely failed to recoup its production budget at the box office.[3]


Barry Egan is a single man who owns a company that markets themed toilet plungers and other novelty items. He has seven overbearing sisters who ridicule and emotionally abuse him regularly and leads a lonely life punctuated by fits of rage and anguish. In the span of one morning, he witnesses an inexplicable car accident, picks up an abandoned harmonium from the street, and encounters Lena Leonard, a coworker of his sister's, Lena having orchestrated this meeting after seeing him in a family picture belonging to his sister Elizabeth.

Coping with his loneliness, Barry calls a phone-sex line, but the operator attempts to extort money and sends her four henchmen, who are brothers, to collect. This complicates his budding relationship with Lena, as well as his plan to exploit a loophole in a Healthy Choice promotion and amass a million frequent flyer miles by buying large quantities of pudding. After Lena leaves for Hawaii on a business trip, Barry decides to follow her. He arrives and calls one of his manipulative sisters to learn where Lena is staying. When his sister starts abusing him again, Barry snaps and demands she give him the information, which she does. Lena is overjoyed to see Barry, and they later have sex. At first, Barry explains that he is in Hawaii on a business trip by coincidence, but he soon admits that he came only for her. The romance develops further, and Barry finally feels some relief from the emotional isolation he has endured.

After they return home, the four brothers ram their car into Barry's, leaving Lena mildly injured. With his new-found freedom from loneliness in jeopardy, a surprisingly aggressive and poised Barry adeptly fights off all four of the goons in a matter of seconds, using a tire iron as a weapon. Suspecting that Lena will leave him if she finds out about the phone-sex fiasco, Barry leaves Lena at the hospital and tries to end the harassment by calling the phone-sex line back and speaking to the "supervisor", who turns out to be Dean Trumbell, who is also the owner of a mattress store. Barry travels to the mattress store in Provo, Utah, to confront Dean face to face. Dean, at first trying to intimidate Barry, finds Barry much more intimidating and Barry compels Dean to leave him alone.

Barry decides to tell Lena about his phone-sex episode and begs her for forgiveness, pledging his loyalty and to use his frequent-flier miles to accompany her on all future business trips. She readily agrees, and they embrace happily. Some time later, Lena approaches Barry in his office while he plays the harmonium. She puts her arms around him and says, "So, here we go."



Punch-Drunk Love received generally positive reviews from critics and has a rating of 79% "Certified Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes based on 184 reviews with an average rating of 7.4 out of 10. The consensus states "Odd, touching, and unique, Punch-Drunk Love is also delightfully funny, utilizing Adam Sandler's comic persona to explore the life of a lonely guy who finds love."[4] The film also has a score of 78 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 37 reviews.[5] The movie came at #33 in the AV Club's "Top 50 films of the '00s".[6]

Roger Ebert praised Sandler's performance in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, saying, "Sandler, liberated from the constraints of formula, reveals unexpected depths as an actor. Watching this film, you can imagine him in Dennis Hopper roles. He has darkness, obsession and power. He can't go on making those moronic comedies forever, can he?"[7] Sandler went on to win Best Actor at the Gijón International Film Festival for his performance and was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

Paul Thomas Anderson won the award for Best Director at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and the film received a nomination for the Palme d'Or.[8] The film was nominated for the Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics.

Filmmakers Lee Unkrich and Judd Apatow have cited it as one of their favorite films.[9][10] Actor Bill Nighy has stated that this is one of his favorite films.[11]

Box office

The film received a limited domestic release, beginning on October 11, 2002 and totaling $17,791,032 in box office receipts; an international box office of about $6,800,000 resulted in a worldwide box office of $24,591,032.[1]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Subject Result
Cannes Film Festival Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson Won
Gijón International Film Festival Best Actor Adam Sandler Won
Golden Globe Award Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Kiss Nominated
Emily Watson Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress Won
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Best Supporting Actress Nominated

Score and soundtrack

The score to Punch-Drunk Love was composed by Jon Brion. As with Magnolia, Brion and director Paul Thomas Anderson collaborated heavily for the production of the film's score. However, rather than scoring the film after rough footage had been shot, Brion made compositions during the filming of Punch-Drunk Love. During the scoring process, Brion would experiment with tones and sounds, carefully making note of what Anderson would respond to. Anderson himself would create the vocal tempos he would envision in the score and use them on set, even to the extent of inspiring the pace of Adam Sandler's performance.

The film's score features heavy use of the harmonium. Brion had introduced Anderson to the harmonium on Magnolia, and Anderson knew he wanted it to feature heavily in this score.[12] Many scenes between Adam Sandler's character and the instrument were inspired by Brion. For instance, Brion once found a harmonium with a hole in its bellows before going on tour with Aimee Mann. To fix the problem, he covered the hole with duct tape. The situation is mirrored in the film.


  1. 1 2 3 "Punch-Drunk Love". The Numbers. Retrieved March 8, 2015. Production Budget: $25,000,000
  2. Patterson, John (March 10, 2000). "Magnolia Maniac". London: The Guardian. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  3. Box Office Mojo
  4. "Punch-Drunk Love". Rotten Tomatoes.
  5. "Punch-Drunk Love". Metacritic.
  6. Murray, Noel; Phipps, Keith; Rabin, Nathan; Robinson, Tasha; Tobias, Scott. "The best films of the 00's". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 17, 2010.
  7. Ebert, Roger (October 18, 2002). "Punch-Drunk Love". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
  8. "Festival de Cannes: Punch-Drunk Love". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved October 25, 2009.
  9. Goodsell, Luke (June 15, 2010). "Five Favorite Films With Toy Story 3 Director Lee Unkrich". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  10. Viera, Lauren (July 31, 2009). "Judd Apatow, king of the Funny People". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 13, 2013.
  11. Ordona, Michael (November 12, 2009). "Bill Nighy pretty much lived this role". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 13, 2013.
  12. Chapman, Glen (February 21, 2011). "Music in the Movies: Jon Brion." Den of Geek (DenOfGeek.us). Retrieved January 24, 2016.

External links

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