Well, here is the 2nd to last review I will publish in the year 2019 (last will be Little Women) and who would’ve thunk that it would be my 2nd favorite film of the year. A film that stars…ADAM FUCKING SANDLER. When is the last time a movie he has been in has been in my top 10…wait…scratch that…top 20 list? Big Daddy…and that’s a HARD maybe. I don’t honestly have any fucking clue. Maybe not since Happy Gilmore or Billy Madison has he been on my best list. (I’m sorry I just didn’t care for Punch Drunk Love all that much, sorry Paul Thomas Anderson brown nosers…) And when is the last year he hasn’t been on a place on my worst list? (FUN FACT: Sandler DOES have a movie on my worst list this year, Murder Mystery, but this more than makes up for that shit show). UNCUT GEMS is unlike anything you have ever seen before. Especially from Adam Sandler, who easily gives us his best performance in a movie. Ever. Ever, ever, ever , ever, and unless he dives right into something like this again, this is probably the only really high peak he’ll ever have, besides the mid to late 90s guilty pleasure comedy peaks. Uncut Gems is dark, gritty, and white knuckle suspenseful. And the dark and gritty doesn’t just pertain to the subject matter, but the fantastic cinematography as well, which makes it looks like a film that was shot in the 70s. It’s just my definition of a perfect movie. I had a really hard time deciding between this and Knives Out as the best film of the year.
But I chose Knives Out, because I had a little more fun with that movie. But make no mistake, this one is just as good but even better in parts. You will not have any clue where the movie is going to take you, as I found it very unpredictable. I had guessed what the ending was about halfway through the film, and was completely cut off guard when it wasn’t close to what I thought would happen. This is one of those films that have those neat little set ups that have great big pay offs later. GREAT. BIG. PAYOFFS. And then there are some little set ups that don’t have any kind of pay off, which is a pay off in itself, as it subverts your expectations in the last act. It’s a film that I would watch over and over again, just like The Safdie Brothers (writers and directors on this) last film Good Time. If you haven’t seen Good Time, I highly recommend watching it too. Robert Pattinson’s performance is phenomenal in that and the film is just as good as this one. If you don’t know what the film is about, hopefully this log line or two helps you out a bit: Taking place in 2012, Adam Sandler stars as a high end jewelry store owner named Howard Ratner, a Jewish-American that is addicted to gambling. He is in debt over his head with bookies (one including his brother-in-law) and is trying to sell this uncut opal at auction he gambled with getting oversees from this Ethiopian Jewish Mining Company, and it is valued at $1 million dollars. He is about to go through a divorce with his wife, played be Idina Menzel, they have two sons who he hardly gives the time of day to, and is dating his hot young employee named Julia, (in a incredible first performance by Julia Fox) who is as gold digging as they come. That’s it. That’s all you need to know about the movie.
From the first several scenes, you know that Adam Sandler is actually trying and giving a shit in this role. Now, while I don’t think it is Oscar award worthy (unless there wasn’t any good competition this year), I think he certainly should get a nomination. And it is with this one key scene near the end of the film where he is watching a Celtics game with Kevin Garnett, who plays himself in this (remember, this film takes place in 2012), and Sandler’s character has a bet riding on his game. Sandler’s reaction to what happens within the game is priceless and totally shed my image that it was Sandler in the role. I thought it was someone else. It is quite a brilliant moment. The rest of the film he uses his usual obnoxious-ness in a great way, making this character unique and his own. It is worth just seeing Uncut Gems for Sandler’s performance alone. But if you stay seated through the whole thing, and pay attention, you realize you get more bang for your buck. As the movie has near perfect narrative structure and pacing. The whole movie is one big roller coaster ride of moments, some tense as fuck, and a couple of great comic relief bits, but all played seriously. And the last half hour is so God damn tense, your hands will be sweating and hurting grabbing your theaters arm rests so tight.
I love, love, love, love this movie. And after this and Good Time, I cannot WAIT to see The Safdie Brothers next film. Just discovered that they have a film before these two called Heaven Knows What, which has a high mark with critics and audiences. Need to check that out very soon. I mean even the musical score is unqiue: uplifting, yet haunting (you’ll see). Here’s the point: we are likely never going to get another Adam Sandler film that is even remotely close to how good Uncut Gems is. So if you are a huge Adam Sandler fan, rejoice for this movie, just know that it isn’t his usual phoning it in lazy comedic performance you’ve gotten used to the past couple of years on Netflix. If you can’t deal with that, I feel very sorry for you. Adam Sandler haters: GIVE. THIS. FILM. A. CHANCE. It might not completely change your opinion on Sandler (my opinion? He needs to cut the Netflix horseshit and do more stuff like this but I know he needs to take his family on free vacations so that won’t change), but you might be one to put your hand to your chin, and maybe agree that he’s capable of great things in the right role. Maybe if he gets enough praise for this, we won’t have to suffer through his Netflix bullshit much longer. Maybe he’ll get inspired to give us a late career great show. But if we stick to the present, I’m just glad we now have this great gem that I can keep revisiting in the future.