Getting excited about an Adam Sandler movie is a feeling that hasn’t been felt in a very long time. While I don’t hate him since I have heard he’s a very nice guy in person, he has been a ton of awful movies that have been released in theaters or on Netflix, which I didn’t even attempt to watch them (I heard The Meyerowitz Stories was good). He’s at his best with dramatic roles like Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me as the prime examples of his talents. Just from the glimpse that we see on him from the Uncut Gems trailer alone, it’s easy to understand the praise he’s getting.
What’s the Story: Howard Ratner is a Jewish jeweler who runs a jewelry store in New York’s Diamond District and comes across this expensive uncut opal that could be worth millions, which could be easy for Howard to pay off all his debts. He’s also has a problem with gambling and keeps making bets that are out of his reach. As he must try his hardest to retrieve a gem and paying off his debts all over town, he’s just trying to get everything in order so it wouldn’t ruin his life in the process.
With this being helmed by the talented Josh and Benny Safdie, they will persuade fans of them to enjoy this no matter what. The last film that earned them a ton of praise of 2017’s Good Time, and I thought it was good, but everybody else has been acting like it was the second coming of Christ. One thing that I can give props for the brothers is that it provided the best performance from star Robert Pattinson. That’s the same thing that can apply when sitting through Uncut Gem. But do I believe it’s one of the best movies everybody has been talking about? Not at the moment, but describing it as “good” does means I still like it.
Sandler might have given the best performance of his career right here. This was a sign of relief because I have been one of those fools that’s been bagging on him for years, these are the kinds of roles that he should do a lot more of and people would respect him a ton more. By far, the most flawed character that keeps getting into something worse every single time he tries to get the gem back, but he sells in perfectly without hesitation. He’s should be up there in the Oscar conversation for Best Actor because this was the best he’s ever committed to a role.
The other stand out besides that I didn’t expect to be good was Julia Fox, who makes you debut as the girl Howard is having an affair with. She was superb the more I think about her performance. NBA’s own Kevin Garnett plays himself who’s feels some kind of powerful connection to this gem and borrows it. This was more than a cameo and just a straight-up role. He was surprisingly good. Then you got the likes Lakeith Standfield also bringing a great screen presence, and I just love seeing Idina Menzel, who plays Howard’s estranged wife that’s on that verge of leaving. We should see more in movies, and sadly, we don’t.
The Safdie’s lifted that kind of gritty style they applied to Good Time and made it the same way here while putting you at ease. This setting of New York just felt unpolished and nothing fun when it’s all about business taking care of. The script they wrote with frequent collaborator Ronald Bronstein, co-editor also, lets you know that there’s this sense of not everything will be perfect for anybody involved in this story. Even the dialogue sounded like real people talking and having natural conversations that aren’t Hollywood-ized. Darius Khondji’s cinematography was a way of feeling tighten in a good way.
Though for flat-out loving Uncut Gems, it’s hard to understand on this first viewing. Some think the Safdie’s thrillers are fast-paced, but there’s mostly the opposite since there wasn’t this feeling of energy running through my veins throughout. Probably the most that got a little tense was during the third act. But that first act was hard to get through when it somehow gave me a headache due to the sound of everybody talking or screaming over each other, and Daniel Lopatin’s score, while amazing, kind of didn’t work either because of the sound mixing. I might be the minority with that aspect, but for some reason, it was distracting and didn’t work for me. Leaving a bit mad might’ve been a given, and that might be the point.
Sitting through this was like a domino effect where you knock one down, everything that follows foot, and you just don’t want to see these bad things happen, which can also be said truly about Good Time. They base this entire movie on one person’s constant mistakes and bad decisions that you just hate witnessing. The character of Howard is one of those characters that perfectly unlikeable, but you’re able to find some amount of sympathy towards him.
Truth be told, Uncut Gems was one of those movies of 2019 I was seriously hoping to be one of my favorites and feel like the adrenaline has rushed through my body. There’s a chance upon re-watching that my thoughts could bump it up and think it’s a lot better, but as it stands, I liked it. If you’re a Sandler fan, it will not be an enjoyable ride for everyone, as it will take a lot to process what was going on in those two hours. Grade: B