“I have a theory about movies,” states author Susanna Kaysen, checking her watch as we sit waiting for the start of Adam Sandler’s Punch-Drunk Love. “I think the biggest problem with most modern movies,” she says, “is that in the first half, they start out trying to be
She’s hoping for better from Punch-Drunk Love, the story of an emotionally-damaged toilet plunger salesman (Sandler) who, while attempting to buy enough pudding to earn a million frequent-flyer miles, falls in love with a sweet English oddball (Emily Watson). Scrunching down in her chair, Kaysen (
“Oh, now I feel I should give you something,” she replies, and starts fishing around in her pocket, finally offering me my choice between a blast of nose spray or a fairly ancient cough drop. Says Kaysen, straight-faced, “That’s all I’ve got to offer you.”
Anyone who’s ever read Kaysen’s books knows otherwise; that the New York author has, in fact, got plenty to give. A first-rate storyteller with a wickedly funny, bare-bones style, Kaysen’s oddly-luminous novels have won her a devoted cult following. She’s best-known, of course, for
“The better the movie,” she says, “the less often I
The good news about Punch-Drunk Love is that Kaysen was not once compelled to run out and smoke. On the other hand, in Kaysen’s opinion the movie only confirms her theory about what is wrong with American films: it couldn’t stay true to its own weirdness.
“The opening was such a dystopic vision of America, everything loathsome and horrible,” says Kaysen the next morning, talking by phone after letting the movie gel a while in her brain. Remember the one sex scene? When they’re in bed and she says, ‘I want to bite your cheek,’ and he says, ‘I want to smash your face in with a shovel,’ then she wants to suck out his eyeballs or something. I watched that scene and thought, ‘This is
And then?” I ask.
“Don’t you think we’re supposed to believe that his love of her, her presence in his life, is helping him heal?” I ask.
“Oh, ugh, disgusting, gross, I hate that,” she replies. “But that probably
“It’s such a lie, and it’s such a fantasy, and it’s just a bunch of American recovery crap and I hate it.”
“What’s crap? That love can help us heal our family wounds?”
“Yeah,” Kaysen laughs. “I don’t think love
She pauses a moment, then says, “I was totally
“So what is it you have against romantic comedies?” I want to know.
“What do I have against them?” Kaysen laughs. “Well for one thing, life isn’t
“In your book, you describe a relationship that doesn’t work out, with issues of sex and your illness being a big part of the problem between you, but you include little details that show how maybe—if he’d made different decisions, if the timing had been slightly different—it could have worked out.”
“But it didn’t work out,” she says.
“But I saw how maybe it
“Well, life is so funny, so odd and unpredictable,” Kaysen says. “And it’s
Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to the movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. This is not a review; rather, it’s a freewheeling, tangential discussion of art, alternative ideas, and popular culture.
Posted on November 4, 2002 in Features by David Templeton
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