Long time listener, maybe first time poster? I might have posted years ago. But PDL is one of my all time favorites, so I had to come post. Sorry if this seems a bit rushed--I'm on my lunch break and know if I don't finish now, I'll probably forget to come back.
So, many folks have touched on the film's emotional beats and how effective they are, and that's a huge part of this film's success for me. But over the year's the film has come to read as an incisive bit of film criticism. The absurdity of Barry's man-child behavior, the underdevelopment of Lena, the ease with which Lena falls in love with Barry--these feel like a critique of both the romantic comedy genre and of Sandler's comedic persona. In a way, these parts of the film, to me, feel like an examination of what would happen if a "real world" version of Sandler's early comedic characters (who are basically heightened representations of toxic and immature male behavior) fell in love. All of the beats of a traditional rom-com are present, but they function, in part, as a critique of the genre. Lena falling for Barry? Of course it's absurd. He's violent and emotionally unstable, a visceral heightened portrayal of the kinds of broken men who rom-coms typically have "saved" by leading ladies. But here, we're supposed to be aware of that absurdity, and Anderson seems to do that very intentionally.
At the same time, the film also works as a love letter to Hollywood's romantic tendencies. The way we linger on the shot of Barry and Lena's kiss in Hawaii, the odd uses of light and color, the clear, blunt language about love ("I have a love in my life"), all point to a more sincere celebration of portrayal's of idealized romantic love, ideals which can be harmful for actual real people, but can also be very powerful and transformative.
It's the film's ability to both critique and celebrate the genre, to exist as a nuanced, complex examination of the genre that makes this film resonate so deeply with me. It makes me feel, and it makes me examine the things that are making me feel. One of my faves.