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Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

United States 2002 95 mins.

With two sprawling, epic works preceding it, with this film Anderson sought to make a “Friday night film,” a short, compact entertainment in the classical mode—as much as possible with Anderson, anyway. Reinvigorating Adam Sandler’s career as Barry Egan, a neurotic plunger salesman with seven sisters and a newfound harmonium, this unassuming, highly unconventional film finds its nucleus with a fledgling relationship between Barry and Lena Leonard (Emily Watson). However, when Barry calls a phone sex line, he’s dragged into a tangled web of fraud and threats of violence from a ring led by a sleazy Philip Seymour Hoffman. This brings Lena into danger, and Barry must act to preserve not only her safety but also, ultimately, the one meaningful relationship he’s ever forged. “What Mr. Anderson wants to do is recapture, without nostalgia, the giddiness and sweep of old movies, and his mastery of the emotional machinery of the medium is breathtaking.”—A.O. Scott, The New York Times.