Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie
Stars: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel
Are you in the middle of a nasty divorce? Or are you at home on sick leave because of burnout due to your stressful job that demands too much from you? Or are those two revolting teenagers at home, who go through puberty right now, making you so much upset that you almost have no fingernails anymore? Good advice! Ignore this movie and look for another soothing movie. Because “Uncut Gems” will certainly not be ideal for your peace of mind. I’m afraid that after 20 minutes you’ll be throwing snacks at the screen out of frustration while pulling your hair out of sheer desperation. Because it’s the most stressful film ever. It drives up the tension throughout the whole movie in a merciless way to an extreme level. Believe me, at the end of the film my heart rhythm was proportional to that of the exhilarating rhythm of this tragicomic film.
Not only is it a nerve-wracking film. The pace of the film is also absurdly high. A movie like an out of control high-speed train. It seemed as if everyone is running from pillar to post at an inhuman pace. From the beginning of the film, it looks like you are being thrown into a centrifuge that’s spinning at a dizzying speed and where the speed never diminishes. Up to and including the denouement. Then the emergency brake is pulled swiftly and the tumultuous life of jeweller Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) abruptly comes to a halt. And if you are annoyed by the use of the “f” word, I warn you already. There are a few hidden in every dialogue.
I’m not at all an Adam Sandler fan. The few films I saw with him (“Click“, “Blended” and “The Cobbler“) were disappointing in my eyes. Maybe it’s the humour used by Sandler. Maybe it’s the person Sandler himself I have a problem with. And to be honest, I always avoid movies with his name on the film poster. It surprised me when I read somewhere that he’s the best-paid actor in Hollywood. But after seeing “Uncut Gems” I have to drastically adjust my opinion about the actor Sandler. It’s not a real comedy (in a reasonably morbid way you could see some kind of humour in it) although you could say that the character Sandler is playing here, is kind of a caricature. Howard, a Jewish jeweller in the metropolis of New York, tries to get his chaotic life back on track. An Ethiopian opal should take care of that. An uncut diamond that according to Howard could muster a fortune at an auction. A fortune with which he can pay off his debts to pawnbrokers and underworld figures. Debts incurred due to his uncontrollable gambling addiction. Until the famous basketball star Kevin Garnett (Kevin Garnett himself) steps in his diamond shop and asks if he could borrow the precious thing because he feels it exudes a primal power. A power that could bring his performance to an unprecedented height during the upcoming important match.
Well, and when KG doesn’t return the precious good to Howard at the agreed time, it’s the start of a nerve-racking race. A race in which Howard’s life is turned into a hell by nasty people, debt collectors, his wife (Idina Menzel who hates him wholeheartedly and calls him the most annoying person in the world) and his mistress Julia (Julia Fox). Even though Howard is indeed a highly annoying person without scruples or any kind of courtesy, you still feel sorry for this man whose life is collapsing like a house of cards. And even though I got nervous because of the Mr. Bean-like character of the film where Howard screws up every time he makes a decision over and over again, this film still managed to entertain me. I could never have imagined that I would ever say this, but Adam Sandler is simply playing his role in an exceptionally excellent way. This was actually worthy of an Oscar nomination. Hopefully, Sandler developed a taste for serious movies now and will make another attempt with a serious role (in a hopefully less hectic setting) in the future. However, I’m afraid that we’ll be seeing a load of comedies (filled with offbeat, childish humour) before that’ll happen.