The cathartic experience of the movies How ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ and other movies ease the mind

By: Grant F. Vance ~Managing Editor~

The great, omnipotent beings known only as “they” have a well-known expression in regards to life: When it gives you lemons, make lemonade. Unfortunately, life is not as simplistic as Minute Maid would like us to think, and it usually gives us grapefruit and demands a milkshake.

Often, when given these bitter, oversized fruit — shitty lemons, really — it’s hard to find someone who can relate to them. Whenever I have a particularly shitty lemon I self-categorize as either too complex to discuss with a friend, or, in most cases, so overly simplistic I would not consider it worth their time, I turn to a movie. Who needs human interaction when you can find catharsis through visual storytelling?

Call me a sociopath all you want, but sometimes a fictionalized dramatization of life experience is more fulfilling than a friendly discussion. Movies aren’t the go-to emotional pallet cleanser for everyone, and I can see why. To pinpoint a specific life quandary into a movie and expect it to make you feel any sort of relief is asking a lot and most often happens only in the case of a pleasant accident. I get that.

1Not everyone is so devoid of social literacy they turn to fiction, and that’s okay. Sometimes, however, when you’re feeling lost and the stars circumstantially align, a movie comes along that tells you everything you’re trying to figure out.

For aspiring stunt men experiencing arrested development, perhaps “Hot Rod.” For former alcoholic writers house-sitting a ski resort to pay the bills, perhaps “The Shining.” (If you are actually experiencing this specific rut, don’t watch “The Shining.”)

For socially anxious disasters who gave up on romantic happiness, there is “Punch-Drunk Love,” a movie that could be written off for a number of reasons.

Mainly, it is a romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler (the idea hurts me as much as it hurts you), and on a surface level nothing more than an arthouse romantic comedy whose merit lies in it being a Paul Thomas Anderson film. You could find catharsis in just about any romantic comedy if you really put your heart to it.

I say “Punch-Drunk Love” specifically because I do not mean “socially anxious” in a fun, quirky “they will no doubt end up with the boy/girl,” but rather in the sense of literal, diagnosed-or-should-be general anxiety. Sandler’s Barry Egan is never directly addressed as someone with anxiety and, really, has a lot more wrong with him than simply anxiety. He is a character wallowing in loneliness as a result of his mental health, unable to communicate properly with anyone, much less someone he is attracted to.

Barry is an important character in this regard, as mental health to this degree is rarely addressed in film. His outbursts due to his poor social skills are drawn out and exaggerated for comedic effect, but Barry is a character who emotes a great deal of loneliness and desperation as a result of his overbearing mental state.

Grant F. Vance is the Managing Editor at the Newswire. He is a senior English & Digitial Innovation Film and Television double major from Jeffersonville, Ind. 

“Punch-Drunk Love” is centered on the burden of communication and how not being able

to properly express oneself can lead to poor decision-making and unfavorable situations.

The real takeaway from the film, however, is that despite any mistake you may have made in the past as a result of mental health, it is not impossible to find happiness — it is simply a matter of when, where and with whom.

In the case you are a Barry to any extreme, or evenly mildly so out of respect to those who don’t destroy bathrooms when uncomfortable on a date, “Punch-Drunk Love” may be the cathartic cinematic experience you’re looking for.

Watching movies may not be your go-to antidote for whatever shitty lemons life throws at you, but maybe it’s time to give it a shot. In the case of legitimate social anxiety these shitty lemons are ever-present, vile creatures constantly reminding you that you totally suck at the simple act of speaking. But that’s okay. If you’re experiencing any kind of turmoil at grapefruit’s expense and it feels like there is no one out there that understands, watch a movie that does. For socially anxious disasters who gave up on romantic happiness, there is ‘Punch-Drunk Love.”