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Uncut Gems (R)
Film Reviews by Amy

01/09/20



 

Adam Sandler constructs a complicated character in Uncut Gems.
Howard Ratner (Sandler), a jeweler working in New York City’s diamond district, seems successful enough but he’s in a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul situation with his bookies, his bookies’ enforcers,  family he’s burrowed money from, his clients and his own business. When basketball player Kevin Garnett (playing himself) comes to shop, for example, he ends up leaving his ring as collateral for a black opal that Howard has recently obtained from Ethiopia. The fist-sized rock is worth a million dollars or more, Howard claims — though later the auction house he’s dealing with disagrees. The ring is worth in the low tens of thousands, but rather than just holding it Howard pawns it and rather than using the money to get a few goons off his back he uses it to place more bets, betting not just on the games but that his wins will let him set this complicated chain of loans right.
His rock is the biggest bet of all. Perhaps he thinks this one-in-a-million item will clear his accounts and set him up for the new life with girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox), who is also his employee at the jewelry shop. On the other hand, Howard doesn’t seem completely ready to leave his wife Dinah (Idina Menzel) who lives on Long Island with his kids.
I think we’re supposed to assume that Howard is a gambling addict, which he might be but I think it might be even more accurate to say he’s addicted to difficulty. He digs himself into holes with his bookies even when he has options to do otherwise. He seems to be dragging his feet leaving his wife even though it would simplify the drama in his life. He creates another financial hole for himself out of avoidable miscalculation. Howard is a stress headache and an anxiety attack rolled together — which is also how it feels sitting through this movie.
Which is not to say that Uncut Gems is a bad movie. Sandler creates an interesting, well-rounded character, a man where hubris and sad-sackness, addiction and a desire to be cool push a person who probably has legitimate talent at his business into some terrible decision-making. Sandler revs this character up, but the movie doesn’t give him a lot of room to run. I feel like the claustrophobic approach to the story — the walls always seem to be moving in on Howard — is not a bad choice but it is one that turns up the volume on Howard, when it’s the quiet moments by himself or with one other person when we get to see the most going on with the character. B
Rated R for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use, according to the MPA. Directed by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie with a screenplay by Ronald Bronstein & Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems is two hours and 15 minutes long and distributed by A24. 

 Howard Ratner (Sandler), a jeweler working in New York City’s diamond district, seems successful enough but he’s in a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul situation with his bookies, his bookies’ enforcers,  family he’s burrowed money from, his clients and his own business. When basketball player Kevin Garnett (playing himself) comes to shop, for example, he ends up leaving his ring as collateral for a black opal that Howard has recently obtained from Ethiopia. The fist-sized rock is worth a million dollars or more, Howard claims — though later the auction house he’s dealing with disagrees. The ring is worth in the low tens of thousands, but rather than just holding it Howard pawns it and rather than using the money to get a few goons off his back he uses it to place more bets, betting not just on the games but that his wins will let him set this complicated chain of loans right.

His rock is the biggest bet of all. Perhaps he thinks this one-in-a-million item will clear his accounts and set him up for the new life with girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox), who is also his employee at the jewelry shop. On the other hand, Howard doesn’t seem completely ready to leave his wife Dinah (Idina Menzel) who lives on Long Island with his kids.
I think we’re supposed to assume that Howard is a gambling addict, which he might be but I think it might be even more accurate to say he’s addicted to difficulty. He digs himself into holes with his bookies even when he has options to do otherwise. He seems to be dragging his feet leaving his wife even though it would simplify the drama in his life. He creates another financial hole for himself out of avoidable miscalculation. Howard is a stress headache and an anxiety attack rolled together — which is also how it feels sitting through this movie.
Which is not to say that Uncut Gems is a bad movie. Sandler creates an interesting, well-rounded character, a man where hubris and sad-sackness, addiction and a desire to be cool push a person who probably has legitimate talent at his business into some terrible decision-making. Sandler revs this character up, but the movie doesn’t give him a lot of room to run. I feel like the claustrophobic approach to the story — the walls always seem to be moving in on Howard — is not a bad choice but it is one that turns up the volume on Howard, when it’s the quiet moments by himself or with one other person when we get to see the most going on with the character. B
Rated R for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use, according to the MPA. Directed by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie with a screenplay by Ronald Bronstein & Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie, Uncut Gems is two hours and 15 minutes long and distributed by A24. 





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