Cinemassholes #8: The Mattress Man from Punch-Drunk Love


6th January 2011

Cinemassholes? #8? What? Bear with me - I haven't updated this series since 2005, but I couldn't think of a more perfect place to share with you my love of The Mattress Man from Punch-Drunk Love. Previous cinemassholes included Brodie Bruce, Sean Bateman and The (Now Dead) Old Lady In Titanic. Bitch. You're up to speed. Let's go.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is awesome in more ways than you could ever imagine. He's kind of squat, unassuming and not at all 'Hollywood'. He's able to disappear for years at a time (when was the last time anyone said, "Hey, when's the new Philip Seymour Hoffman movie coming out?") but he's always utterly brilliant in whatever he does. This is a guy who can play Truman Capote one minute and a Mission: Impossible baddie the next. I'll be looking for you in Ghost Protocol, Toby Jones. Psyche.

His character in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love isn't particularly influential, but is hugely memorable - tragically for Adam Sandler, for whom this the film was and remains a career highlight, Hoffman is the funniest thing in it. He's played roles that have been deadly serious (weeping masturbator in Happiness) and goofy ("fuckin' idiot, fuckin' idiot" in Boogie Nights) before, but he hardly ever gets to play an ass of this magnitude.

Hoffman plays Dean Trumbell aka The Mattress Man, a local furniture salesman with a badass leather jacket, a neat line in TV adverts and a haircut of the Gods. He also runs a phone sex operation on the side and tries to extort Sandler's rage-filled weirdy, Barry Egan, by sending his goons round to rough him up a little. Ironically for a phone sex magnate, he's hardly the most eloquent speaker, as you're about to see.

That's basically The Mattress Man in a nutshell: a missile of misguided rage, powered by profanity and bad fashion. Compared to Barry - who's equally angry but in a confused, endearing sort of way - he comes across like a cartoon villain. He's a local celebrity in the loosest sense of the world. It could well be the smallest amount of power to ever go to somebody's head, but The Mattress Man's life is just how The Mattress Man likes it. I shudder to think how he 'makes love'. But I still think about it all the same.

When it comes down to brass tacks and Barry tracks him down face to face, The Mattress Man folds like a... er, cheap mattress. "I would say 'That's that', Mattress Man," requests Sandler, quietly fuming, a volcano of violence bubbling beneath his surface. Trumbull's tough guy facade wobbles but doesn't give in - it's only when Egan has one foot out the door that The Mattress Man's bravado kicks in and his male pride bucks.

Adam Sandler would never be quite so critically revered again; Hoffman, on the other hand, won an Oscar a few years later. He's played more important characters, more dramatic roles and in bigger, loftier films, but Philip Seymour Hoffman has never been as entertaining as he was selling mattresses at low, low prices. And hey, if this isn't the greatest fake TV advert starring an Academy Award-winner of all time, I'll go fuck myself. I would say that's that, Mattress Man.

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