It’s time for me to weigh in on Uncut Gems. In case you missed it, this movie has generated a lot of buzz for showcasing Adam Sandler in a dramatic role. This is not the first time of course: Bulletproof, Funny People, Spanglish and Punch-Drunk Love are also welcomed departures for this comedic actor. Some may say Going Overboard was not a comedy either, but I’ll leave that early effort alone.
The film follows Sandler as Howard Ratner, a diamond dealer who gets in over his head thanks to high stakes gambling and diamond smuggling. Adding to the appeal was casting famed NBA player Kevin Garnett in a supporting role. Without spoiling the story, I will say this was not just stunt casting, Garnett fit into this story perfectly and helped to sell this world of the diamond district.
For you non-sports fans out there, Kevin Garnett played 21 seasons in the NBA. He retired in 2016 and is regarded as one of the greatest power forwards to play the game. Uncut Gems uses game footage from his tenure with the Boston Celtics to great effect.
Without a doubt, Uncut Gems is my favorite Adam Sandler movie, and the best example of his range as an actor. Before I speak to the reasons why, it is interesting to learn how we got here.
Uncut Gems was directed by the Safdie Brothers, Benny and Josh Safdie. They also wrote the screenplay along with their frequent collaborator Ronald Bronstein. Sticking to their indie roots the, film was edited by Benny Safdie and Ronald Bronstein as well.
I first heard of the Safdie Brothers when I was blown away by the trailer for their 2014 movie Heaven Knows What. The trailer for Heaven Knows What was edgy and fast paced, the movie however was not. Still, I could tell these filmmakers had something, they have a bold style, a unique perspective.
Their work became fully elevated in 2017 when they made the drug fuelled crime thriller Good Time. That movie was a major stretch for actor Robert Pattinson, years prior to him doing that in The Lighthouse.
The brothers had been trying to get their Uncut Gems script to Adam Sandler since 2012. It makes sense that the thing that finally gave them entry was when Sandler was told by his agent that he should see Good Time. If they could fit Pattinson in this gritty, neon hazed world, why not Sandler. Uncut Gems did exactly that.
From the opening scene of Uncut Gems, you know it’s time to strap in for a bumpy, wild ride. The film is a dazzling blend of intensity and natural dramatic beats. The style of this visionary filmmaking duo is finally on full display with Uncut Gems. It is not surprising that this is a world they knew well. The Safdie Brothers’ father worked in Manhattan’s Diamond District. He told them stories of legend, which they brought to life here.
Julia Fox is an exceptional match for Sandler, she played Julia, his girlfriend who works with him in his jewelry store. An all is lost scene with the two of them is in his office is a shinning highlight from the film that stuck with me. Clearly, the brothers’ directing style which leaves room for their actors to breath pays off. The bitter sweet chemistry between Sandler and Fox gleams on the screen.
This well crafted character piece comes full circle in the end. Do not let the trailer fool you, Uncut Gems is a work with great substance. Director Martin Scorsese is an executive producer on this movie. This is fitting because, in a way, Uncut Gems is the Safdie Brothers’ Mean Streets. Much like the character he portrays, Adam Sandler was looking for something life changing, with Uncut Gems I think he found it.
– Curt Wiser is an Author and Writer-Director of the suspense movie Cam-Girl. As a filmmaker, he is happy to share indie gems with the world.