MEMOIR:

FALL 2004:

A Satisfying Newbury Lunch
When It Felt Like Home

SPRING 2003:

The Big Boys
The Fine Art of Urination and Defecation Al Fresco
The Golden City
Inside Looking Out
Roxbury
The Soup Game

FALL 2002:

All the Hearts
Footsteps

SUMMER 2002:

Being Family

SPRING 2002:

An Alternative to the Common Use of Forks
Memoir Lead
Two Weeks in New Mexico
Untitled
Zeroes

FALL 2001:

The Anti-Valentine's Girls
Play

SPRING 2001:

Amour de Soi
The Day Music Let Me Go
The Force
Lucky Me, I'm Gifted
My Green Canyon
A Painful Passion
Point of Departure
Sail the Sea
Smile and Nod

FILM REVIEWS:

FALL 2004:

Lola Takes Us For the Sprint of Our Lives

FALL 2002:

Arlington Road: A Thriller with Thought
A Big Fat Fairytale Wedding
Border Patrol: The War Against Drugs Continues
Not the Stereotypical Shoot 'em Up Gangster Flick
Punch Drunk Love

SPRING 2002:

The Complexity of Artificial Intelligence
Monster's Ball
Monster's Redemption
Royalty Runs in the Family

FALL 2001:

A Hard Day's Night: A Rock 'n' Roll Joyride That Never Runs Out of Steam
Too Many Potholes in Riding in Cars with Boys

SPRING 2001:

Requiem's Melody Lingers
New-and-Improved Horror

FEATURES & PROFILES:

FALL 2002:

In The End, Everything is Crystal Clear
A Match for Success
They Will Follow Him
A Very Bostonian Hotel
What's an A?

READINGS:

The CO201 program hosts special Coffee House Readings periodically throughout each semester. These stories have each been selected by 201 professors for reading.

SPRING 2002:

Death and Board Games
Luxembourg
Resurrection of a Ghost
The Tool Man

FALL 2001:

Bits of Daylight
Leona's House
This is Spinal Tap: No Need for Painkillers
The Toad and the Giant

SPRING 2001:

The Movies
Solving the Equation: The Trials and Triumphs of International Adoption
Yaglafant

ESSAYS:

FALL 2002:

Her Face is Red
Smoking a Cigarette
Stories and Lies
Sumit Ganguly: He, She & It

PROPOSALS:

Proposals are group projects in which 201 students propose and create an ad for a non-profit organization or cause.

SPRING 2002:

Christian Solidarity International

CONTEST WINNERS:

SPRING: 2007

Riches to Rags... to Riches
Man of the House
A 'Special Education' Defined

SPRING: 2006

#71952
For Never Was There a Story of More Woe, than This of Mr. Thomas A. Marcello
Pei-yeh Tsai finds harmony in opposites at the keyboard

SPRING 2005:

Colorado Peaks and Iraqi Deserts: A Paramedic's Story
The Consequences of Drunk Driving
America, Open Your Eyes

SPRING 2004:

A Fine Balance: The Life of an Islamic Teenager
A Genetic Link to Identity: Dr. Bruce Jackson and The Roots Project
Rebel With a Cause

COFFEE HOUSE READINGS:

FALL 2004:

The Amah’s Revenge
Circle in the Sand
It’s How I Walk
School Bus

SPRING 2002:

Death and Board Games
Luxembourg
Resurrection of a Ghost
The Tool Man

FALL 2001:

Bits of Daylight
Leona's House
Nonfiction Story
This is Spinal Tap: No Need for Painkillers
The Toad and the Giant

SPRING 2001:

The Movies
Solving the Equation: The Trials and Triumphs of International Adoption
Yaglafant

PUNCH DRUNK LOVE

BY MATTHEW SANTINI

Watching “Punch Drunk Love” is like attending an AA meeting for circus clowns. All of the jokes and makeup have been stripped away; left is only the ugliness, the anger, the discomfort. The characters lead lives of not-so-quiet desperation, barely managing to convince each other that all is well, yet screaming to the audience for help.

We could see from watching director Paul Thomas Anderson’s last movie, “Magnolia,” that he was headed for something like his latest effort. “Magnolia” showed us characters who were incredible actors in their own right, like the TV personalities whose public loved them but whose lives were crumbling around them. “Punch Drunk Love” shows us people without that fake-but-happy upside. We see only the demented underbelly, yet we don’t dare look away.

Adam Sandler stars as Barry Egan, a “nice man,” as he insists, who sells plungers from a dilapidated factory located in a washed out urban wasteland in LA. Dressed in a startling and funny-looking blue suit, the same suit he wears every day, he walks out to the street one morning at work. It is entirely quiet except for the pitter-patter of his footsteps and the sky looks wrong. The same sense pervades the rest of the film; it feels as if it’s always about to storm. The silence is rudely and violently interrupted as a car overturns and skids across the screen. Barry stares, detached and mute, as a cab pulls up, drops off a piano, and leaves. A woman momentarily arrives and asks to leave her car keys with Barry so he can give them to the auto body shop next door when they open. “There’s a piano in the street,” she says. Her name is Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), and she becomes the object of Barry’s obsession.

It’s uncomfortable to watch someone as painfully awkward as Barry. People are always talking about him like he isn’t there, even when they are talking to him. Barry has seven sisters, several of whom call him at work to remind him to come to one sister’s birthday party. He goes, and walks in on a conversation they are having about an embarrassing moment from his childhood; they continue anyway. “Remember we used to call you gay boy? You got so angry. Are you gay now?” “I dunno,” he replies. Barry says that a lot. The party doesn’t go so smoothly, and he confides in his brother-in-law that he needs psychological help. “I don’t like myself sometimes. I don’t know if there’s anything wrong because I don’t know how other people are.” “Barry, I’m a dentist.”

People like Barry just aren’t meant for dating; he calls a phone sex line instead, but we get the impression he’s not after the sexy dialogue so much as he’s after, well, the dialogue. No matter that he pays this woman to talk, at least she listens. Barry’s putrid brand of bad luck says hello again when this woman calls back, threatening him and extorting his money. Thugs batter Barry black and blue, but when Lena gets hurt, he sees red. He hunts down conman Dean Trumbell, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who he tells, “I have a love in my life that makes me stronger than anything you can imagine.”

The plot, though, is not what makes “Punch Drunk Love” compelling. The movie is not about anything entirely tangible, it’s about feelings; you feel Barry’s rage and despair just as much as you feel the blue in his suit. It’s about the way a skillful director like Anderson can wrench these emotions from your body. The film was promoted as a romantic comedy. There were plenty of people laughing in the theater, and there were plenty of people who weren’t. I was one of the people hugging his knees.

Barry Egan is a deconstruction of the Adam Sandler character. Anderson wrote the film; it’s like he cut out all the happiness from “Happy Gilmore” and pasted the remains onto Barry. He’s a complete social misanthrope given to fits of crying and uncontrollable rage. In one particularly voyeuristic scene, Barry excuses himself to the men’s room, onto which he unleashes his fury. Anderson positions the camera in the corner looking down on the action. The bathroom battle in “Liar Liar” was comical; this one is frightening and disturbing. The same can be said for Sandler’s performance; subtle and enthralling, terrifying but engaging, he turns the movie into a train wreck without the dead people. These are just words; they cannot impress the way Sandler does.

Anderson’s directing is particularly effective; he’s a malicious puppet master who knows how to torment his audience like he does Barry. Anderson presents a controversial situation and leaves it up the individual to laugh or cringe. The decision is not always an easy one. In a hotel room, Barry and Lena engage in post-coital pillow talk. “I’m looking at your face and I just want to mash it with a sledgehammer,” he says lovingly, to which Lena responds, “I want to scoop out your eyeballs and suck on them.” Are these two in love, or suffering from dementia?

Colors and sounds are as dizzying as the dialogue. There is the blue suit Barry wears; there’s something unsettling about the paradox of that clownish outfit on someone so tortured. Breaks between scenes are often filled with an explosion of colors that seems to intensify and mirror the emotional content of the film. And there’s that piano, or harmonium – what’s that thing for? It spends most of its time on Barry’s office desk, and playing it appears to calm his nerves. The soundtrack is anything but calming – so invasive and percussive, like the heartbeat of a cokehead.

I watched “Punch Drunk Love” with a grim fascination, and, afterwards, felt like Mike Tyson had eaten my children and run off with my wife. Barry Egan is such a tragic figure, a man whose life has so long been devoid of joy that he defends any scrap of happiness with horrifying ferocity. He has a terribly desperate need to be accepted and respected, to be treated as the nice man he knows he can be, and who we see him as, when we aren’t hiding our eyes.