Uncut Gems (2019)

uncut gems poster 2019 movie adam sandler
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Solid, tense thriller

So tense that it can almost be not enjoyable at points

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Uncut Gems

Studio:  Elara Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s): August 30, 2019 (Telluride)/December 13, 2019

MPAA Rating:  R

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Think you better stick to Furby necklaces…

Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is running out of options. He owes thousands of dollars all over the city through racked up gambling debts, he’s leaving his wife Dinah (Idina Menzel) for his younger co-worker Julia (Julia Fox), and he’s facing a potential colon cancer diagnosis. Howard always knows that things can turn around, and he’s just landed a rare black opal from a mine in Ethiopia that could change his fortune. When Kevin Garnett takes an interest in the black opal, Howard’s plans could be dashed or it could mean an even bigger payout…Howard likes to play the numbers but sometimes the numbers play him.

Directed by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie (who also contributed to the script), Uncut Gems is a dramatic suspense thriller. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August 2019 and received a wide release in December 2019. It was released to positive reviews.  Though not nominated for any Academy Awards, the film received a Razzies Redeemer Award nomination for Adam Sandler.

Adam Sandler is always a question mark. I didn’t enjoy his other dramatic roles much (like Punch-Drunk Love), but that wasn’t necessarily due to him. He also has made movies like some of his Netflix movies that are some of the basest comedies around. With good reviews, I decided to check out Uncut Gems. Due to the plotline of the movie, a ******spoiler alert****** exists for the rest of the review.

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K.G. wants what you have!

Stress…the movie is all about stress and one of the most stressful movies I’ve seen in a long time. Howard is always yelling, everyone is yelling at Howard, and Howard is always taking make-or-break risks. In my opinion, there was only one way this could end…and it did: Howard dead. The question was how it would happen. It could have been the cancer, it could have been his wife, mistress, or one of multiple people he was scamming…Howard isn’t playing it safe and even when he gets ahead, he screws it up again (and this isn’t a sustainable way of life).

It is always tricky for comedic (especially the style of Adam Sandler) to go dramatic. It often either feels like some ploy to gain attention for a film or a desperate Oscar grab. Sandler fits the character however and he balances a jovial personality with a rage filled risk-taker. This is something the character of Howard would have had to do to survive this long. The character is backed by a good supporting cast including an acting turn by Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Judd Hirsch, The Weeknd, Eric Bogosian, John Amos (in a fun cameo), and Julia Fox is a strong debut performance.

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In about a week you are going to regret that tattoo…

The movie also is snappy in appearance. While normally you expect high rollers to be staying in posh life, the sad nature of Howard’s shop is probably closer to reality. With finders like Lakeith Stanfield’s Danny attempting to bring in big names like Garnett, the shops mostly get by probably through the big occasional sale. Howard’s home indicates that he has been a success and time has simply caught up to him. Sequences involving the interconnected nature of the universe (as seen through the black opal) are interesting, but I wish they could have been tied in better.

Uncut Gems is a real oddity. I started the movie stressed out, felt stressed out the whole film, and left the theater stressed…and I think that the filmmakers would like that. You could argue that Howard succeeded in his big score. He’s killed so quickly after the win that he probably never knew he lost in the big picture. It also leaves me wonders what happened to the characters as word of Howard and Arno’s death spreads…what will become of his debts, his family, and Julia? The game has many losers.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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