Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie
Gambling addict and jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) must pay back $100,000 to his loan shark brother in law Arno (Eric Bogosian). As he tries to get the money together his life begins to fall apart as he holds onto the hope that the sale of a rare black opal will solve everything.
Adam Sandler blew me away with his performance. I enjoy his comedy, but I had not seen any of his other serious stuff like Punch-Drunk Love or Reign Over Me. This movie makes me want to check them out now. His character is a terrible guy but a likable terrible guy. I must say that even though Sandler blew me away here, the character was more or less what he usually plays in his movies but without everything being a punchline. Somehow he converted that into a great dramatic performance. I am serious on this.
Howard is a gambling addict in a marriage that is falling apart. In fact, he and his wife are planning on divorcing shortly after Passover. Dinah (Idina Menzel) is all rage and anger at her philandering husband who is keeping his mistress and employee Julia (Julia Fox) in a nice New York apartment. His life is all kinds of messed up.
Eric Bogosian is a good actor that I have not seen in a while. I cannot recall the last time I saw him in anything, and it was great to see him back in action here. More or less his character is what starts Howard’s fragile world falling apart. He stops a bet Howard placed that would have been successful and solved everything.
I am not normally into the slow downward spiral story but as with every rule there is an exception. And this is it in my rule. I think because the movie kept providing for so many outs for Howard that he never took but you kept thinking he would. Maybe that is why. You really want the character to save his ass, but he never quite can do it without immediately undoing it and most of that is because of his own self-destructive behavior.
It was interesting that they used real life events and people rather than creating a fictitious timeline. Basketball star Kevin Garnett plays himself. In fact, he is one of a few real-life cameos of people playing themselves. John Amos of “Good Times” fame shows up as a neighbor of Julia. Performer the Weeknd is himself. While not herself, Tilda Swinton of all people has a part as the voice of the woman at the auction house that Howard hopes to sell the opal he purchased from Ethiopia at.
The story is just sad and depressing and wears you down. Such movies can be very hard to watch. This is definitely an emotionally tough film. There is tension throughout and it even at times has scenes of pure chaos that made me feel anxious. It is not often that a movie can make me feel something that strongly. Uncut Gems is a depressing and at times anxiety inducing film. That is not an insult. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I was not too sure about it, but I had the opportunity and decided to watch. I had my doubts because serious drama is not what Adam Sandler is known for, but he knocked it out of the park.
The ending is logically abrupt, and I guess you could even say sad. What happens makes sense in the context of the universe they have. You may want different, but you will not feel cheated or dissatisfied. It is a good film, but it is not a film for everyone.
It is not that the subject matter is hard to take but that it is emotionally brutal. If you are prepared to deal with some rough stuff you will like this movie. I recommend it but with a warning.