I’m watching this show tonight on Animal Planet, Dog Days
or some such. It’s an Animal Planet version of The Real World
, following a bunch of New Yorkers and their dogs around. It’s all a bunch of silly shit, of course. (I’m only watching it ‘cause of the cute little doggies.) I wouldn’t bring it up except there’s this one guy on the show, a real friggin’ nutcase. Loves his dog so much that he had its DNA taken so as to clone it after it dies, took a trashbag full of his dog’s hair into a garment shop and got them to make a hat and scarf out of it. This is how much guy loves his dog. It’s really more heartbreaking than it is funny; though it’s obvious the producers put the guy on the show for his comedic value. We’re tracking the guy and his dog through NYC, seeing him try and fail miserably to find a woman, a friend, anybody that’s willing to even be around him. He’s even alienated from the other members of the cast and some of them are almost as nutty as this guy. (Wait ‘til you see the gay interior designer who won’t make a decorating decision unless his poodle okay’s it first.) At the end of the show tonight, we get a montage of guy frolicking in the park with his dog, on the ground rolling around, happy as can be, then laying in bed with his dog, watching TV while wearing his dog fur hat. Then we here his voiceover: “I don’t see what’s wrong with me loving my dog. I know it’s not a substitute for viable human contact, but at this point I’ll take what I can get.” Lemme tell you, that just ended my world for a minute or two. So pathetically sad and so shocking for me to see something this real on a show like this and on a network that’s known for crap like Crocodile Hunter
and Pet Psychic
Why do I bring this up? you ask. It ties in with the two films I saw this week, One Hour Photo
and Punch-Drunk Love
. Really, the main characters in both of these films are no different than this guy on Dog Days
, all yearning for a normal life with normal human interactions, but all unable to find it (and all certifiably insane). Punch-Drunk
and One Hour
share similarities, too, in that they both feature comedic actors going for broke in serious roles, both pulling it off with aplomb.
In One Hour
, we have Robin Williams working at photoshop, so alone, so shut off from the rest of the world that he’s forced to live vicariously through the lives of this one family whose photos he’s been developing for years. When his version of the American Dream is disrupted, he’s forced to act in extremes in an effort to save it. Billed as some kind of psycho-stalker suspense flick, it’s not really. It’s a character study of this one pathetic (and I say that with kindness) little guy who’s doing the best that he can to be happy. An okay, kinda pedestrian film elevated by one killer performance from Williams.
In Punch-Drunk Love
, we have the same basic premise. Adam Sandler is the same kind of guy, incapable of normal human contact. Watch as he tries to duck away in the shadows the first time he sees his love interest, Emily Watson, just so he won’t be forced to talk to her. He obviously yearns to be normal. Look how he behaves at his sister’s birthday party, trying to interact with his sisters and brothers-in-law in a normal fashion, but all-of-a-sudden breaks out in a fit of rage due to his inability to do so. Look at him calling a phone sex line, not looking to get off, but just wanting somebody to talk to. Look at his awkward attempt at dinner conversation on his first date with Watson. Sandler finds happiness, not fantasy happiness like Williams in Photo
, but real, honest-to-goodness happiness, but, like Williams, it is disrupted, this time by the proprietor of the phone sex service trying to blackmail him. He, like Williams, is forced to react.
Sandler in this, he’s mindblowing. Two times, in particular, he had me bawling, once where he’s asking his brother-in-law to recommend a shrink to him, saying, “Sometimes I just don’t like myself,” and another time, the aforementioned dinner-table scene. I strongly disagree with Joker that we need a “real” actor playing this part. This is a role tailor-made for Sandler. (Literally, too, as Anderson, in a bizarre stroke of genius, wrote this script specifically for Sandler after the two had agreed to work with each other.) I’ll leave it up to McBain and Ebert to talk about the way Anderson deconstructs the persona Sandler has created throughout his films because I really have nothing I can add of value. (Except: go watch The Waterboy
and imagine that role without the silly accent and you’ve got Barry Egan in a nutshell.) To me, it didn’t seem like Sandler was playing pretend and I never had a problem sympathizing with him or buying him when he’s supposed to be earnest. (By the way, when in this film is he not
supposed to be earnest?) To take Sandler out of the picture would be to ruin it.
Also, (and not to pick on Joker here; it’s just that I’ve been in agreement with everything else that has been written and, goddamnit, I’ve just gotta be arguing with somebody) I take offense at the reference to the film’s “strength through love” theme as trite. Well, maybe it is trite, but who gives a bloody shit? I don’t go to the movies expecting profundities; I go expecting to be entertained, to be moved. For God’s sake, don’t try to teach me anything. That is, unless you’re gonna do it in an entertaining, moving kinda way, then it’s okay, just so long as you place you place the entertainment goal above your pretensions. (Unless your pretensions are to entertain, then it’s okay and goddammit I’m rambling…) Punch-Drunk Love
moved me, moved me severely, I must say. Quite honestly, I haven’t been moved like that by a film in a long, long time. I don’t care at all that it had nothing “important” to say (what, really, can a film say that’s more important than “strength through love”?). In fact, if it had tried for something more profound than it did, I’d probably have been turned off, running out the theater screaming “pretense! aaarrrgggh!” Pretense is as great a crime as pedophilia in my book. (No, not really…)
Nothing else to say, really, about either film. One’s good, there other is a centimeter away form being perfect (ending seemed a little rushed, especially the confrontation with Phil Hoffman, but I guess that did go along with the absurdity of the whole flick, so I can’t complain too loudly). For a while now, viewing films seemed more like a chore than anything else. Punch-Drunk Love
is the first film all year that I can really, wholeheartedly get behind. Reaffirms my joy in cinema, as corny as that sounds.