Barry Egan wearing a bright blue suit sits at the corner desk of an empty warehouse engaged in his phone call. It is in this phone call that paves the way for how a viewer needs to look at the protagonist. In opening shots director P.T Anderson sets Egan up as the man to empathise with as the camera uses point of view (POV) shots when the character witnesses a car crash. A vehicle suddenly drops off a small piano in the middle of the road like a singular anxious thought that a person needs to kick roadside. Instead of forgetting about the small piano, the viewer becomes anxious in its meaning, so to Barry. He runs to the road, runs back with the piano placing it in the warehouse for no reason at all.
Egan is played by Sandler who channels the “I’m a comedian, character comedy” mode. He plays the role of Egan almost without a fault. Watching Sandler in the role, the viewer will want to give him a hug and say “The world will turn out alright”. Here’s a guy that has seven sisters who constantly call him one after the other. Why? To ask if he’s going to a family function. He is a business owner/salesman of cheap goods that can’t even find a commercial retailer. Barry is a man that needs reassurance from those around him to move forward. He is moving an inch forward ever so slightly however his world is moving faster than himself. In every scene Barry needs to take action on one issue and the minute it is resolved, another one comes up. He is an anxious man who hates himself and life.
He calls a sexline simply for normal conversation, hands over credit card details and now they harass him further into anxiety that he can not resolve. Anxiety is a trap for Egan. He wants peace but life is too busy for him. Barry wants distraction away from his own distraction. His seven sisters define him by breakdowns that he has suffered from in the past and all he desires is freedom of life to make choice. This film is about choice making with mental illness like anxiety and breakdowns.
One sister sets him up with a friend Lena (Watson) and their scenes together are charmful due to the fact that they understand each other’s intricacies. Lena represents the comfort that an anxious person like Egan wants. Her motivation for the relationship is friendship. When her work sends her to Hawaii on business, Barry wants to go but can not afford a ticket. His mind works overtime and reasons by saving coupons from branded puddings. He doesn’t need to go to Hawaii for a vacation, he needs to act on making a choice with the key decision to be with Lena in Hawaii.
Punch Drunk Love is a film not for the anxious but for the people that represent the seven sisters. It’s for the family members and friends of people suffering from anxiety and want an inside view.
Adam Sandler as Barry Egan
Emily Watson as Lena Leonard
Luiz Guzman as Lance
Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Dean Trumbell