It’s truly a shame when a great actor gets a bad reputation — Adam Sandler being the paramount example. Most people think of him as a schlocky comedy actor who makes cheap cash grabs and neglect that he’s a talented individual. The film “Uncut Gems” is the chance Sandler needed to get back in the good graces of film buffs and average moviegoers alike. Directed by the Safdie brothers, “Uncut Gems” will be released Christmas Day 2019.
This film follows Howard (Adam Sandler), a diamond district jewelry store owner who is constantly getting himself in over his head with dangerous men. The film revolves around Howard’s sale of a rare opal to Kevin Garnett (himself), a basketball player for the Boston Celtics. After having incurred a debt to the mob, Howard attempts to win his way out by gambling and selling the opal.
The cornerstone of this film is its ability to make the audience root for Howard no matter how shady his actions may be. Constantly attempting to weasel his way out of trouble, Howard does increasingly desperate things to reconcile his debts and save himself from his own mistakes. The film is made in such a way, that Howard always remains likeable, getting the audience to stay on his side through it all.
As said by the directors in their Q&A after the Arclight Chicago showing, this film has been in production for 10 years and has gone through 160 drafts. The script shows this long process in the best way possible, with finely crafted dialogue that flows naturally and witty conversations. Having undergone many changes, the current draft of the film is completely different from the first draft. At one point, the script began in the 15th century rather than modern day and had a major character that was cut, Howard’s adopted son.
The greatest strengths of this film are the writing and the lead performance from Sandler. The two mesh together to create an anxious and personal experience that forces the audience into the head of the main character. Giving a sleazy and desperate performance, Sandler portrays a man desperately craving to be great and at the same time wanting normalcy. Sandler’s character wants the good aspects of success but is unwilling to accept the burdens that come with it.
The faults in this film lie entirely in editing and groutity. A few scenes add nothing, mainly the trippy gem sequences, where the camera moves inside the opal and basically just displays a bunch of colors for no reason. The film comes off bloated but still not overly long, coming in at two hours and 15 minutes.
Shoddy editing in the action-packed scenes distracts from the story, pulling the viewer out of the moment. The angle jumps around so much it’s almost impossible to tell what’s happening. Thankfully, there are only a handful of these scenes in the movie.
“Uncut Gems” delivers a chaotic, well-written experience that will likely keep audience members clenching their jaws. The editing holds it back from being a masterpiece but it’s not enough to make it any less than great. Sandler finally gets a chance to show off his abilities with a fantastic script and great characters.
“Uncut Gems,” rated R, in theaters Christmas Day.