Warning: Trailer contains mature language and scenes.
Josh and Benny Safdie are back with their fourth feature and their first since 2017’s breakout hit Good Time, which helped reshape star Robert Pattinson’s public-image from teen heartthrob to indie-darling. Their new movie Uncut Gems may also change the public’s perception of its leading man, comic superstar Adam Sandler.
Sandler, best known for his Happy Madison screwball comedies, plays a character unlike any we’ve seen from him before. Howard Ratner is a gambler, a con artist, a hustler, a man always chasing one thing while running away from something else. He’s a winner who just can’t win. The film follows Howard as he attempts to recuperate a large debt by means of various money-making schemes. The Safdie’s may have described him best, calling Howard “an irredeemable shit lord, but you can’t help but root for him”.
Sandler’s dipped his toes into more serious material before. Perhaps his most famous dramatic role being that of Barry Egan in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love and more recently in Noah Baumbach’s 2017 film The Meyerowitz Stories. While it’s been clear for some time that Sandler has untapped dramatic talent, this latest performance blows all his previous work out of the water. Sandler is manic in this film, a desperate man just barely holding his life together at the seams. Though it seems unlikely Sandler with win a leading-actor Oscar for this role, this is (in this humble reviewer’s opinion) THE performance of the year.
In addition to Sandler, the film houses a stellar supporting cast. LaKeith Stanfield turns out another excellent performance as Sandler’s partner in crime, Idina Menzel is great as Howard’s soon to be ex-wife, and acting newbie Julia Fox steals the show as Howard’s boisterous beautiful mistress Julia. The movie also utilizes many non-actors and real-life diamond district jewelry brokers to further the feeling of authenticity.
Uncut Gems is a pure adrenaline surge that opens at a sprint and never slows down. With its neon lighting and erratic camera movement, the film feels simultaneously like an LSD trip and cocaine rush. By the last 30 minutes when shit really hits the fan, the movie is guaranteed to have you by the balls.
I can’t remember the last time I was this entranced and swept up by a film. This is the Safdie Brothers’ best work and perhaps my favorite film of the year. I can’t urge you enough to see Uncut Gems.