“This is me. This is how I win.”-Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner
By Cain Dennis
“Uncut Gems” as a film is not unlike the uncut chunk of black opal that it centers around. As the film opens, we see a ramshackle mining operation taking place in Ethiopia where this very valuable piece of opal is unearthed. We gaze into one of its colorful patches and we can see all of the universe. Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler)’s misadventures involving this rock are but a small piece of its history, and it will still exist long into the future. Much like the intoxicating colors that emit from the gem, “Uncut Gems” is a window into a moment in history, specifically into New York City’s Diamond District, circa 2012.
Adam Sandler plays sleazy jeweler Howard Ratner to perfection. He is the glue that holds this all together, and I truly don’t think that this would work nearly as well without him. He brings a level of charisma and comedy that makes you root for Howard even when he’s doing terrible, unethical things. Sandler’s name is one that comes with a certain amount of ridicule nowadays due to his subpar output recently, but I have always been a proponent of Sandler’s, even in the times where his films aren’t so great, his potential is undeniable and films like this one and Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece “Punch-Drunk Love” show that Sandler’s acting talent is undeniable when paired with a well-written script and powerful direction. I have quite the soft spot for “Happy Gilmore” as well.
I also want to mention directors Josh and Benny Safdie. The brothers have constructed a film that much like their previous film “Good Time” drips with anxiety and has your head spinning in its moments of tension and yelling matches between large groups of characters, these are scenes which make up a large portion of the movie but they never lose their power, seeing these people bicker, scream and battle against each other never gets old, and even in the most frantic moments, character’s motivations are as clear as day, you know exactly what everyone is screaming for. The tension builds perfectly over “Uncut Gems” two hour and fifteen minute runtime and rarely gives you a second to breathe until the ending. I could see this conclusion being somewhat divisive but I am personally very satisfied with how the film ends, and feel it serves the movie very well thematically.
The entire cast fits their roles perfectly, especially LaKeith Stanfield as Demany and Kevin Garnett, the NBA player as himself. Julia Fox absolutely glows in her stunning feature film debut and Idina Menzel is great as Howard’s wife. The Safdie Brothers direct their characters in a way that makes them feel like people that you could really meet walking the streets of New York City, every performance and decision reflects total authenticity.
“Uncut Gems” is a nearly perfectly crafted film that grapples with extremely powerful themes and builds to an unbelievably shocking climax. At its core, “Uncut Gems” is a film about addiction, the highs of winning and the crippling lows of loss that you may not be able to come back from. This film is not for everyone, it’s dark, obnoxious and anxiety-inducing, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. The Safdie Brothers are perfecting their style and I can’t wait to see what they take on next. I hope it’s as exciting as this film. Catch this one immediately if you can.
I’m giving “Uncut Gems”