Starring Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, LaKeith Stanfield, Eric Bogosian, Kevin Garnett
If you like movies that manufacture migraines, agitate viewers senses and led you to a state of anxiety, then Uncut Gems is what you have been waiting for. Familiarity with Josh and Benny Safdie is key to managing expectations on Adam Sandler’s latest work. There is no denying that Sandler, along with The Safdie Brothers have near perfected the art of pushing viewers to the limit with frenzied dialogue, volatile editing techniques and the ever present impending doom. Uncut Gems can best be compared to those nightmares we all have where you’re trying to do something but you can’t get there no matter how hard you try, waking up exhausted from the experience. It’s like that, but for two conscious hours. With Sandler doing his best Al Pacino impersonation, Uncut Gems might be the Safdie’s most accessible film to date (go back and torture yourself with their previous films).
Jeweler Howard Ratner (Sandler) is having a bad day, maybe it’s a bad week, in fact, Howard constantly runs a conveyer belt of bad decisions. His addictive personality to swindling and gambling has landed him in hot water with a variety of associates throughout Manhattan’s Diamond District. Some show up at his hole-in-the-wall gem store, demanding money or blood. His latest get rich scheme involves uncut gems from Africa, one of the opals has just arrived, which he intends to auction for over a million. He can’t help but brag about his bewildering African gem to recently acquainted basketball star Kevin Garnett, who wants the stone for good luck. Sure, borrow it he says, setting off a chain reaction. With his marriage and family life falling apart, he’s moved into an apartment with co-worker girl friend Julia (Fox), compounding the level of stress he’s carved out for himself.
Uncut Gems can best be compared to those nightmares we all have where you’re trying to do something but you can’t get there no matter how hard you try, waking up exhausted from the experience.
With sympathy and empathy removed from the starting point, Uncut Gems allows the audience to sit back and cringe at each terrible decision Howard makes. Those around him are disgusted or depleted from this endless manic behavior. Menzel plays the wife who adopts a particular expression that’s passed down to the viewer by the welcome conclusion. The Safdie’s are not interested in exploring addiction as it pertains to this character, their script invites a guilty pleasure watching his deterioration. Each time Howard has something go right and the audience is given a bit of room to relax, he doubles his trouble with another appalling decision. The script stays away from any moral lesson or learning curve, it’s more or less, if you act like this, you get what you deserve. The New York filmmakers have an authentic and genuine illustration of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
With Howard narrating a basketball game in the final act, the grainy camera combined with extreme closeups and lots of yelling culminates in one of the most satisfying moments of the year. “Definition of skeezy. slang. : morally or physically disgusting or repulsive : skeevy, sleazy In Sleeping With Other Friends, Howard has slicked hair parted to the side with a thin mustache”. That really sums up what The Sadie’s strive for, meaning Uncut Gems is quite an accomplishment. Howard Ratner isn’t outside the wheelhouse of types of Sandler characters from the past, he’s always had an incredible gift playing annoying. Here that’s simply being repurposed for a different effect and a different audience.
The Safdie Brothers have meticulously created one of the year’s most intentionally irritating films.