Uncut Gems (2019)
IMDb rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 92%
When the 2020 Oscar nominations were announced, there was a fair amount of buzz around the Adam Sandler snub for his role in Uncut Gems. The Screen Actors Guild similarly ignored his part in this film.
Jennifer Aniston, a longtime friend (before either of them was famous) who has shared the screen with Sandler on more than one occasion gave him a shout out in her own SAG acceptance speech (for The Morning Show): “Adam Sandler, your performance was extraordinary and your magic is real buddy, I love you.”
Sandler is best known for his slapstick comedy movies like The Water Boy and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and rom-coms like 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would consider him for such a dark and serious role of Howard Ratner, a New York jewellery dealer with a chronic gambling addiction. Independent filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie did though; the result is extremely uncomfortable – and brilliant.
Sandler’s performance, particularly outside of his decades-long comfort zone, is outstanding. His character, however, is not one viewers are likely to find endearing. In fact, there is no one in the movie who is particularly likeable.
The pace is relentless as Howard lurches from one mishap to the next with a lot of shouting and swearing, pawning jewels that are not his to pawn to use the money to place ridiculous sports bets. As with any desperate gambler, he owes his bookies and loan sharks as well, so the wheel just keeps on turning, and his desperation to stay ahead of the game is palpable.
Uncut Gems is tense, edgy and gritty, both in style and substance, and ultimately – and subtly – it presents moral values.