“Uncut Gems” stars Adam Sandler, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, and Eric Bogosian. Released on December 13, 2019, the film is about a jewelry store owner who is addicted to gambling.
The film is directed by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie, who also directed films such as “Daddy Longlegs”, “Lenny Cooke”, and “Good Time”. It's not every day when you have to face a ton of tough obstacles in order to get to the top. When you’re gambling your way to the top, however, the obstacles can get a whole lot tougher. This latest film from the Safdie Brothers reflects on that situation, which would hopefully teach people that gambling is not always cool. There was a lot of strong buzz for the film when it was released a couple of weeks ago, with Sandler being praised for his dramatic performance, so there’s no reason why I should skip out on this one. Even though I enjoy Sandler in some of his works, mostly the comedy ones, I can admit that his latest comedies were a bit more dumbed-down and underwhelming compared to his earlier films like “Happy Gilmore”, “Billy Madison”, and “Click”. Yes, I like “Click” and I don’t care. So I’m hoping that his recent role would be enough for Hollywood to start treating him as a respectable actor again. I was able to see this film after posting my top ten list of my favorite films of 2019 yesterday, and based on my experience with it, I wished I should’ve saved that list until after I saw it.
The film follows a jeweler named Howard Ratner (Sandler) who runs a jewelry store and struggles to pay off the gambling debts, including the money he owes to a loanshark named Arno (Bogosian). One day, he received a valuable opal that’s worth millions of dollars, sells it to basketball player Kevin Garnett (played by himself), and takes his championship ring as collateral. Howard then sells the ring to a pawn shop in order to place a large bet on Garnett’s game. After he wins the bet, Howard’s life starts to spin out of control with one problem after another, resulting in him racing against the clock to retrieve the opal and pursue for the ultimate win. This is the type of film that doesn’t play well with others during the most wonderful time of the year. It’s crude, it’s mean-spirited, and it’s loud. This is definitely not the film that you want to watch with your grandparents or your younger kids during the holidays. If you’re able to get used to the amount of crudeness that this film delivered, you might find that its core is as valuable as the opal itself. That is exactly what I did, and my goodness. It is truly a sight to behold. Combining the Safdie Brothers’ gritty style with a riveting and complex script, “Uncut Gems” is a heart-pounding and magnetic piece that displays the dangers of gambling addiction and how it affects one’s choices. You have a charismatic and nasty character who bit off more than he can chew while attempting to pay off his debts with gambling. While it’s good to win more money through gambling, that doesn’t mean it should be taken for granted. Whether you win or lose, gambling always comes with a cost. The film was able to handle this theme beautifully without sacrificing the entertainment value that it offered. Yes, you read that right. I was highly entertained by the anxiety that was displayed in “Uncut Gems”. It can be pretty exhausting at times, but thanks to its respectable pacing and the cast, the exhaustion was worth it. Adam Sandler was absolutely fantastic in his role as Howard. I had a hunch that he would impress me as well, and just like that, my hunch has proved me right. It just goes to show that despite his struggles in his recent comedy roles, Sandler still has some talent left in him in certain roles outside of his usual routine. The rest of the actors were also very impressive in their roles. Stanfield, Fox, Menzel. Heck, even former basketball player Kevin Garnett was great in his first big-screen debut as the fictionalized version of himself. The other aspects that made this film work was its cinematography and Daniel Lopatin’s mesmerizing score. The way this film was shot onscreen has the makings of a gritty crime thriller, but it was never afraid to also show off some hallucinatory sequences from the opal as well. The cinematography had the right amount of realism to please my eyes rather than strain them.
Overall, “Uncut Gems” may come off as a tough sell for some people due to its crude nature, but for fans of anxiety-inducing cinema, it’s an exhilarating and enticing gamble that paid off extremely well. It’s a film that relies on the tension and the drama to get the message across and provide a unique experience that’s impossible to resist. With its brilliant cast (particularly Sandler), its slick and grim style, its breathtaking cinematography, and an enthralling score, the film is a great way for me to end off 2019 with a bang. If I was able to see it before I posted my top ten best list, I would definitely place it somewhere in my top five. This is another gripping piece of cinema that can give you something to think about. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and go check it out.