A jeweler with a gambling problem finds himself in deep financial
straits that can only be solved by selling off a seemingly priceless gem.
Uncut Gems (2019)
Directed by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie
Written by Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Starring Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, LaKeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, Kevin Garnett, Eric Bogosian, Judd Hirsch, Keith Williams Richards
Adam Sandler. Wow. Known mostly for his comedic output, something which has seen a noticeable decline in quality, he has dabbled in the occasional dramatic role. And, like most comedians, he has actually proven to be a skilled actor when he chooses to veer away from his comfort zone. But, based off what I was hearing about this particular role, it was starting to sound like this would be his most drastic change in character type we’ve seen yet. One which had actually earned him some serious Oscar consideration. That’s not to include what I was hearing about this movie itself. Mainly with how anxiety filled it made people. Needless to say, I was curious to see what all the hype was about. After seeing it, I completely get it. Talk about a movie and a performance.
The main thing I want to talk about first is not the movie itself, but Sandler’s performance. Uncut Gems sees the comedian play the character of Howard Ratner, a jewelry expert with a terrible gambling addiction. As he’s trying to get out of his debt, we witness him make one bad decision after another. Now, this may sound like a typical Adam Sandler comedy. It’s not, though. And Sandler’s performance backs that up. Here, we see the famous comedian completely transform into his role and delivers what may be the best performance of his career. This isn’t even an exaggeration. He’s that good in this. This isn’t a lovable doofus down on his luck. Ratner is not a great person who can’t keep his mouth shut or even stay out of trouble. Sandler’s performance isn’t the only amazing thing, though. The other is the intense feeling of anxiety this film induces in the audience throughout its entire runtime. I haven’t seen a film in a long time which has made me feel like that. Or the sense of relief I felt once the credits rolled.
For those who are looking for something different from Adam Sandler, especially his haters, I strongly urge you to check out Uncut Gems. This is a revelatory performance from the comedian. And it’s backed by one of the most engaging films I’ve seen from last year. Overall, this is a gem of a movie people should check out. I just hope to see more stuff like this from Sandler instead of his more recent, lazy comedies.
I can honestly say I didn't think Sandler had it in him. Sure, he was fantastic in Punch-Drunk Love, but his track record pretty much speaks for itself. He's the king of shit comedies, content to film below subpar movies just so he can vacation with his friends. But Uncut Gems changes things, not just for Sandler career-wise, but for movie fans everywhere. This film proves Sandler can do wonders when he cares about the project. Uncut Gems is one of the most intense, unpredictable, and sexy thrillers I've seen in a long time. Not for the faint of heart, mind you, but a hell of a watch. Hell, when I saw it, all four people sitting next to me walked out.
Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a real piece of shit jeweler who makes backhanded deals left and right in order to pay for his gambling problem. He needs the perfect win, and he's willing to screw over anybody to get it. Naturally, he gets in his own way when he loans a seemingly priceless black opal gem to NBA all-star Kevin Garnett, who doesn't immediately return it. All of Howard's debts seem to get called in all at once, and he starts to unravel as everything comes crashing down upon his head. Sandler plays Howard as equal parts hateful and sympathetic. You don't want to like him, but you do. It's odd.
Uncut Gems never goes the way you think it's going to, and the ending comes out of fucking nowhere and hits you right between the eyes. The supporting cast is all fantastic, particularly newcomer Julia Fox as Howard's girlfriend Julia. There are elements of comedy sprinkled throughout, but the film is definitely a hardcore crime drama bordering on thriller, something very much outside of Sandler's usual wheelhouse. I may never fully forgive him for Grown Ups and Jack and Jill, but this is a damn fine start on the road to cinematic redemption.
The Safdie brothers are going to steadily gain followers if they keep making awesome content like Uncut Gems, Good Time, Heaven Knows What, and Daddy Long Legs. I highly suggest watching their stuff because it’s original work at a high octane level. Adam Sandler is the perfect big time actor for Uncut Gems, because you can tell the Safdies' are huge fans of his by the way they used him in this film. I was glued to Sandler’s character, even though he has no decent bone in his body. My expectations were quite high for this one, but I still had no idea what was going to happen every two minutes and that’s a really cool feeling.
Sandler plays a very ambitious jeweler from New York City named Howard. He clearly has an obsession with sports, stones, and betting. The film doesn’t ever let up as Howard keeps making moves that heighten the next one. The characters that Howard runs into throughout NYC are not your everyday kind of folk. He even makes a deal with real-life NBA legend, Kevin Garnett and I’ll just say shit hits the fan.
I walked out of Uncut Gems with a huge smile on my face. The Safdie brothers know how to entertain with jam packed scenes and relentless storytelling. Adam Sandler gave us one of his best performances of all time as Howard. He simply had to get this role at this exact time in his career. It’s destiny. The supporting cast is extremely unique and just right for each role. LaKeith Stanfield has become one of my favorite dudes to watch and his role in Uncut Gems just added to that consistency that I’m so used to getting out of his performances. Kevin Garnett isn’t just in the trailer for shits and giggles. He’s really in this film and he delivers just like he did on the court. KG was one of the most hard working players I have ever seen play, so it makes sense that he would get on board for a project like this, which is an excellent piece of filmmaking.