Film / Punch-Drunk Love

"I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine."
Barry Egan

Punch-Drunk Love (2002) tells the story of Barry Egan (Adam Sandler), an introverted, sweet but socially inept Manchild, whose life revolves around his novelty plunger business ("Fun-gers") and attempts to extricate himself from the domineering influence of his seven sisters. His interests mainly include buying up large quantities of pudding to take advantage of their air miles offer, and using phone sex lines to alleviate his loneliness.

Then one day, Lena Leonard (Emily Watson) walks into his life, and everything changes.

Punch Drunk Love is notable as one of P.T. Anderson's low-key works, made between the epics Magnolia and There Will Be Blood, and for showcasing the dramatic chops of Adam Sandler while simultaneously being a warped Post Modern take on the Romantic Comedy and Adam Sandler movies in general.

This Film Contains Examples of the following tropes:

  • Ambiguous Disorder: Many viewers think Barry is autistic.
  • Angrish: "SHUT UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! Shut up, will you SHUTUP SHUTUP! SHUT SHUT SHUT SHUT SHUTUP... SHUTUP! NOW [Beat] Are you threatening me, dick?"
  • Anticlimax: Barry is frantically [and painfully] running from the Four Blonde Brothers when they drive past him and casually remind Barry that "they know where he lives". Barry stops running after this. They show up later and crash his car. Barry gets out and smashes their truck with a crowbar, flies to meet their boss, and gets him to back down. In the words of the Matress Man, "That's, that."
  • Apologises a Lot: Barry, and frequently when he's not even done anything wrong.
  • Bad Liar: Barry. And he tells a lot of them.
  • Big Bad: Dean "The Mattress Man" Trumbell arguably acts as one for Barry, with his threats and attempted extortion of Barry jeopardizing his relationship with Lean and providing much of the tension in the movie.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": The Mattress Man to Barry over the phone.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Lena has to take the initiative. A lot.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Most of Mattress Man Dean's dialogue when he's not shooting ads.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: See The Power of Love.
  • Deconstruction: The movie takes the typical Billy Madison / Happy Gilmore-style Adam Sandler character and almost deconstructs him, showing the real-life consequences of his behavior, and how dangerous such a person would feel to you if you actually met one.
  • Determinator: "I'd say, 'That's that, Mattress Man.'"
  • The Dog Bites Back: Barry, to both his sister, Elizabeth when he's in Hawaii and to The Mattress Man.
  • Dream Melody: The five note descending melody which pops up repeatedly on the soundtrack is actually played by Barry on the harmonium at one point.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Part of why Lena seems so besotted with Barry is that he's so helpless. Lampshaded by the soundtrack with the song "He Needs Me".
  • Freudian Excuse: It's implied that a lot of Barry's issues stem from his relationship with his older sisters, who are simultaneously dominating and cruelly bullying.
  • Funny Background Event: When Barry is talking to his third sister, you can see his second-in-command bashing a Funger in order to show it off to a customer.
  • Gainax Ending: Inverted. The movie opens with Barry on the phone talking about the frequent flier miles promotion while random sounds are playing in the background. He opens the warehouse door, stands in the parking lot, witnesses a random car crash, then a group of men in a van pull up and drop off the harmonium. The film becomes more normal from there.
  • Homage: The soundtrack contains the song "He Needs Me" from Robert Altman's Popeye film. Also, the supermarket where Barry shops bears a remarkable similarity to the supermarket photographed by Andreas Gursky in his picture ''99 Cent''.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Despite how much Elizabeth browbeats Barry she gets defensive when Lena calls him strange.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Mattress Man and his gang consistently call Barry a "pervert". You know, for calling a phone sex line that they operate.
    • It's implied to be a trap for blackmailing people out of money. It seems they feel justified in their actions due to their victims being pervs.
  • Iris Out: A particularly sweet example, as the Iris centres on Barry and Lena's hands clasped together and actually follows it as they disappear around a corner.
  • Jerkass: The Mattress Man and Barry's sisters, most notably Elizabeth.
  • The Klutz: Barry's not only clumsy, but accidents also seem to happen just by virtue of his presence.
  • Leitmotif: Barry and the harmonium.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Barry wears the same blue suit in every scene.
  • Mickey Mousing: In one moment, Barry plays one of the leitmotifs on the harmonium.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Barry isn't turned on by the phone sex hotline he dials, despite repeated, not-so-subtle hints from the woman on the other line to get horny. He just wanted someone to talk to.
  • Open Heart Dentistry:
    Barry: I wanted to ask you something because you're a doctor. I don't like myself sometimes. Can you help me?
    Walter: Barry— I'm a dentist.
  • Outnumbered Sibling: Barry has seven sisters and is the only male sibling. It doesn't help that his sisters are ovebearing and ridicule him.
  • Paper Tiger: Dean, the Mattress Man. He's tough and threatening when surrounded by and working through his mooks, and even keeps his smirk as he's acceding to Barry's demands to leave him alone. But when he decides to get the last word in, and Barry doesn't react well, he basically folds:
    Dean: Now get the fuck outta here, pervert!
    Barry: [Swinging around threateningly] Didn't I warn you?!
    Dean: [Alarmed] Th-that's that! [Scurries away]
  • The Power of Love: Enables Barry to become a total badass.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Although not villainous, it's clear that Barry's got serious anger issues. One of the movie's primary themes is demonstrating that in real life, this kind of typical early Adam Sandler character would make you fear for your life.
  • Red Herring: Barry's plan to amass an enormous amount of frequent flyer miles by collecting pudding cups. He never uses the miles.
    • He basically suggests he's going to use them to be with Lena while she's travelling.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Barry's Pudding/Frequent Flyer Miles plan was based on an article P.T. Anderson read in Time Magazine about a civil engineer called David Phillips who did pretty much the same thing.
    • Read more about it here. (#5)
  • Smug Snake: The Mattress Man.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Barry in his second run-in with the Mattress Man's gang. Lena getting injured might have something to do with it.
  • Tranquil Fury: Barry dealing with the Mattress Man's mooks.