Cast: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield
Directors: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Well, after all of these years who knew Adam Sandler is actually an incredibly talented actor. I’ve respected him as a comedian even if he has gone off and done some terrible movies over the course of the decade, but Uncut Gems really shows the supreme level of talent and ability he has in his craft. A borderline masterclass movie from start to finish, Uncut Gems combines Sandler’s phenomenal performance with an interesting story and a movie that is as stylistic and smooth as it is performed to make Uncut Gems yet another captivating and compelling movie from A24.
The film follows Howard Ratner (Sandler), a jewelry store owner who has an obsessive addiction to gambling and sports better and the greed that comes with it. One day, Boston Celtics player Kevin Garnett comes into his store looking to buy a rare Ethiopian gem that Howard spent months trying to acquire. Between this, his debt to loan sharks, and his homelife on the verge of falling apart, Howard spends the better part of 135 minutes trying his best to manage all of these angles while doing his best to feed his ego and keep everything afloat. Uncut Gems is the type of movie that lives and breathes because of its lead performance, and I’m still stunned with Sandler’s abilities in this role. It’s hard to believe that the same man who was in Jack & Jill is now leading a dramatic and tense movie like this, but it shows that whatever talent’s had he’s been hiding from the public for all these years. Watching Howard traverse through these tough situations while exclusively thinking about himself and his own prideful interests shows how awful and disgusting he is, but we’re so invested in his story that we still want him to succeed. What originally starts off as a story about a man looking to find his way ends up becoming a twisted tale about the power and corruption greed can have on a person and Sandler plays that role beautifully. From a director’s standpoint, you can tell how much effort and care went into this movie by the Safdie brothers as they continue their climb as some of the best directors to work for A24. Through the direction, cinematography, score, and color scheme, everything feels like it has a purpose and a reason for happening. This movie feels like an homage to an era of crime thrillers in the past and if it is then the Safdie brothers did a fantastic job of representing the films they grew up admiring. I know A24 has kind of dropped the ball promoting some of their better movies this year, but it looks as though Uncut Gems is reaping the financial and critical rewards for their work. I hope A24 continues to bring their A-game next year, because with all of the fantastic movies they put out this year, it’s a shame they’re not considered to be the top studio for abstract, interesting, and well-performed movies.
Overall, Uncut Gems showcases a side of Sandler that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before and that I hope we see again at some point. We get a performance out of him that we rarely see from an actor regardless of their background and for someone who isn’t a classically trained dramatic actor it makes it that much more impressive. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this, but the one thing we can take away from Uncut Gems is that anyone passionate enough to work on a movie with other talented people will end up creating something that audiences won’t forget.
Overall Score: 8.5/10