5 Fun Facts About Punch-Drunk Love
Paul Thomas Anderson’s odd, affectionate, and singular take on the RomCom is delightfully funny and oozing with idiosyncratic charm. Following his epic drama, Magnolia, Anderson vowed to make his next project a lean 90 minutes, making Punch-Drunk Love his shortest film. Anderson smartly utilizes Adam Sandler’s comedic persona as the lonely guy who finds love, and Sandler’s performance is the best he’s ever delivered, proving that he has some dramatic range and revealing surprising dimensions as a performer. It remains one of our absolute favorites that we turn to whenever we need a laugh, some sweetness, and a cathartic release from the occasional internal rage.
To close out this month’s focus on romantic comedies, we’re dishing out 5 fun facts about the film!
Healthy Choice airlines miles loophole was a real thing
Sandler’s character, Barry, is modeled after David Phillips, also referred to as “The Pudding Guy,” an American civil engineer best known for accumulating many frequent flyer miles by taking advantage of a promotion by Healthy Choice Foods in 1999. Phillips' pudding story received international attention from news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The Times. Anderson loved it so much, he decided to use it as an odd sub-plot in his film.
A happy accident
In one scene, Barry is being followed by the Steadicam as he talks on the phone. During one take, the front of the camera accidentally bumped into a table and knocked the camera briefly, which caused the shot to jump from Sandler to an image of an out-of-focus piece of the set before quickly readjusting focus. Anderson loved the effect and wanted to recreate it, so he had the crew do more takes. Right at the same point in the dialogue, they smacked the front of the matte box on the camera to reproduce the effect, which wound up in the finished film.
Cast filled with family
The film’s cast is filled with a surprising amount of relatives. Barry's seven sisters, for instance, are played by one actress — Mary Lynn Rajskub — and six nonprofessionals, four of whom happen to be close relations to one another. Also, the four blond brothers who muscle Barry are played by four actual brothers. Just another layer of odd, in an otherwise unconventional RomCom.
Subtle supermarket plot twist
This subtle twist alters the film’s narrative in an interesting way. During the scene where Barry is at the supermarket looking for the cheapest Healthy Choice food item, we see he is being followed by an out-of-focus character in a red outfit. This figure, though never shown in focus, is Lena Leonard (Emily Watson). She appears to be stalking Barry, which perverts the film’s sweetness slightly, and also explains why she’s so eager to have Barry’s sister introduce her to him. We see Lena in the red dress later on in the film, but the supermarket sighting is never acknowledged.
An early iteration of the film was said to be a gangster comedy with Tarantino-style dialogue, ultra-violent set-pieces, and a car chase, and one of its working titles was Punch-Drunk Knuckle Love. There is a literal nod to the “love knuckles” embedded slyly in the film. After Barry assaults his office wall, he rests a bloody hand on his harmonium, revealing for a brief moment cuts on his knuckles that spell the word "love". In addition to being a reference to the earlier version of the title, it’s also a blink-and-you-miss-it reference to Robert Mitchum’s preacher from Charles Laughton’s seminal horror film The Night of the Hunter, which Spike Lee later recycled in his race-relation masterpiece Do the Right Thing.
What do you think? Did you learn anything new? Did we miss any fun observations? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!