Uncut Gems Review
Uncut Gems is a fantastic film now available in the UK on Netflix, it tells a tense and exciting story of a Jewish New York Jeweller Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler.) His character is constantly fighting off angry debt collectors who work for Arno (Eric Bogosian), his hope is an imported uncut opal gem worth a small fortune, enough to liberate Ratner from his debt. This gem is symbolic of good luck and Kevin Garnett (Kevin Garnett) becomes heavily obsessed with its symbolic power as a good luck charm at his basketball games. Uncut Gems, however, is anything but a simple film; the tense excitement that drives the narrative should indicate from the beginning that something as simple as a gem could not solve all of Ratner's difficulties. Adam Sandler's character loves to gamble. Ratner cannot resist making one bad decision after another, he gambles with money that is not his own hoping to pay of his debts and make some extra cash on the side. He makes you want to scream and shout at the screen as he damages his family and puts them in danger for material reward. Uncut Gems is stressful and tense, the bets placed become your own and rooting for the Celtics (Kevin Garnett's team) becomes inherent second nature. The film makes you want to win, and to want Howard Ratner to win. It is this that makes the film so hard to watch, his life is a train-wreck spurred on by desire and unconsciously endangering everyone he loves. As much as you want Ratner to win, you feel like he will crash and burn at every decision he makes, and this is what causes the nail-biting tension (and anxiety) that underlies the entire movie.
Benny and Josh Safdie (Directors commonly known as the Safdie Brothers) have complete and utter command over this film, creating what feels like an authentic world of brash men. The high stakes diamond district of New York is characterised by these bold voices shouting one another down. Howard Ratner's diamond shop could be from the 'real' world, down to the sound of the security buzzer on the door. The details the brothers include immerse the audience in the film and world that they have faithfully created. This face-paced and intense film benefits greatly from the moments of comedy that are inserted in, Adam Sandler is utilised in great sequences like when the security door breaks and traps the clients within. This breaks up the difficult tension and lightens what is a jarring and truly immersive film. The filming techniques, on that note, are very disrupting and difficult, the camera is shaky and the film moves at pace making it difficult to follow. However, this initial technique builds tension and is worthwhile once all of the major players are introduced and in place and the film is underway. It is a fantastically jarring and tense film and the skill with which it was put together is a testament to the directors.
Adam Sandler (Howard Ratner) is in a greatly refined role when compared to the films that I have seen him in before, the tropes and traits expected in a Sandler movie are missing here. What we have, is a strong and highly believable portrayal of a gambling addict who is hunting down that one big score, something to carry him through the rest of his life. Addiction though makes it difficult to see when to count your blessings and stop pushing your luck. Sandler spent many months shadowing actual diamond district shop owners and his performance and movements reflect this dedication, the accent and brashness of his movements are perfect. Adam Sandler embodies Howard Ratner in a way which we have never seen him do before, he is a fantastic anchor for this film and a fantastic actor throughout it. Sandler was the central focus of this film and it shows, the other actors failed to escape his shadow and his performance eclipsed LaKeith Stanfield (Demaney) and Julia Fox (Julia De Fiore), who were probably the closest to being supporting actors. The two actors play both their roles well, much like the cast on whole, however, no one stood out with Sandler alongside them.
Uncut Gems is a two-hour emotional rollercoaster. Watching this film is akin to being stuck alongside a deranged and destructive individual who cannot make the right choice to save their life, Adam Sandler's performance is uncomfortable and tense and yet, truly fantastic. I found my heart beating unbelievably fast by the end of the film, and I was sat with my mouth open in shock. I loved this film mainly for this reason, it can compel the audience and invoke seriously strong emotions from its viewers. It was hugely refreshing to see Sandler in this kind of serious role and it shows that he is a dynamic and varied actor, I would have enjoyed a stronger supporting actor to help him carry the film, but he did an amazing job on his own. I was completely lost in this insane world of Howard Ratner and it was a highly enjoyable experience.