Double Bill: All About the Love

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When he last came to Houston, Pedro the Lion gave this recommendation to Punch Drunk Love, the latest from Paul Thomas Anderson.

It’s really good… It’s kind of like when you hear a band is going to put out a new record and you hear what’s it’s going to be all about, and it’s a little weird because you don’t think it’s going to be good, but then it kicks ass. After Magnolia, I heard he was doing an Adam Sandler movie, and that sounded like about the dumbest thing I had ever heard, but it’s fucking great.

I, too, was shocked by how much I liked this movie. Towards the conclusion, I was starting to wonder “Am I going to give this movie five stars? Seriously?”

It’s the story of Barry Egan, a man who’s built his own business selling toilet plungers. He has seven sisters, all of whom seem to take quite a bit of pleasure emasculating Barry, while curiously seeming to care a great deal about him. I’m not one to judge whether this kind of behavior makes sense, but it certainly works to make its point in the film. After all, it’s Barry’s story.

Barry has a lot of problems which all interweave with each other in a way that makes real sense to me. He is horribly embarrased by certain personal facts about himself and claims ignorance when confronted with actions that need explanations. He’s afraid of showing his inner self because he’s had such horrible luck trusting people. His sisters, even though they think they’re acting in his best interest, are part of his problem in that respect. He’s forced to trust fairly random people, like a dentist married to one of his sisters, with these massive personal problems. He also has no judgement in whom to trust, like that dentist incident, and a call to a phone sex line which propels one of the plot lines.

He’s painfully nervous when he meets Our Girl, played by Emily Watson. One of the only deductions I give this movie is that if she and Barry are to have the kind of connection shown in the movie, we need more background about how she got there. This is a minor deduction, because again, this is Barry’s story. As he decides what he wants, he becomes a new man, like so many men do when they find themselves in love. In facing a situation which you suspect might have driven Barry over the edge, one way or the other, instead he faces it down and puts it to rest.

I don’t think I could have handled a non-happy ending to this story, and luckily, I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s hard to know exactly what to give this movie. Is it one of the best movies ever? I don’t exactly want to say so, it seems too peculiar. Since I happen to be peculiar, that’s no problem for me, but still. Is there a way the movie could have been appreciably better? I don’t think so. Did I enjoy the movie? Very much. I have to give it a 9.6/10 and tell you to watch it.

Harold and Maude was supposed to be the second half of a Hal Ashby double bill. The first half was going to be Being There, but unfortunately, I think it sucked. As it turns out, it was the second half of a double-feature that’s all about the love.

As a love story, it’s strangely pedestrian. I don’t think it’s particularly crazy that a young man could fall for a—geriatric (giggle) when she’s so full of life. He clearly needs that kind of influence badly, and she just effortlessly breaks through his little boy-shield. After that, he’ll be hanging on for the rest of the ride. That much makes sense to me. It’s also typically boyish of him to completely miss the references she makes to ending her life throughout the film.

The humor of the movie is what’s really exceptional. The repeated suicide attempts never failed to amuse. The supporting cast all work. The no-longer-amused mother, the military general uncle, the psychiatrist (who disconcertingly is dressed exactly the same as Harold in an early scene), they’re all great. The humor is what makes this movie a 6.8/10, instead of something totally forgettable you’d see on Lifetime. That’s a +.2 for Cat Stevens.