Punch-Drunk Love is a departure of many sorts from what kind of film Paul Thomas Anderson typically makes. His Altman-esque ensemble casts and dark studies of L.A. are replaced with a singular focus on Barry Egan (Adam Sandler), a man berated by his seven sisters to the point that he merely nods along with anyone he is in conversation with just to avoid the conflict.
Sandler, certainly not anyone's first guess for lead in a P.T. Anderson film, manages to disappear into the role of Barry as Jim Carrey did when he first cut his teeth in dramas. Although no one really supports the serious endeavors that Sandler takes part in so we will all be treated to another Sandler/James/Schneider outing. Barry is an easy-going guy until his sisters proceed to call him gay-boy thoughout most of a dinner party then he smashes a glass slider door in an explosion of hostility. Barry then seeks the advice of one of his brother-in-laws telling him, "sometimes I don't like myself and don't know why," to which the brother-in-law replies, "Barry, I'm a dentist." Left alone with his thoughts Barry makes a phone call to 900 number seeking someone to talk to. And for his wish for discretion he is only punished further.
Punch-Drunk Love is an absurdist black romantic comedy and really not one thing in this film can be foreseen. Anderson never strays into the predictable plot structure of, say, any given Katherine Heigl film and the interaction between Lena (Emily Watson) cannot be any more wildly surprising. Anderson regulars like Hoffman (as a scene-stealing Mormon mattress store owner slash part-time adult service blackmail artist) and Luis Guzman (as Barry's beleaguered partner at his storage facility) also appear.
Anderson used Punch-Drunk Love as a palate cleanser before he set on to work on There Will Be Blood and you can tell Anderson has decided to move on from his ensemble pieces that piece together through chance and serendipity and instead focus a laser like intesnity on its protagonists like Daniel Plainview and Barry Egan. Punch-Drunk Love is a pitch-perfect black comedy with a chance to see Adam Sandler give an awesome performance.