A tense crime drama film starring Adam Sandler? If you had told me after Jack and Jill that Sandler would be able to give such a layered performance in a well-directed film, I would have thought you were crazy. Before seeing Uncut Gems, I watched Josh and Bennie Safdie’s previous film, Good Time, to get a feel of their directing style. Good Time was tense, unwavering and increasingly difficult to watch with realistic dialogue.
Uncut Gems follows a similar pattern as Howard Ratner, played by Sandler, places himself in increasingly difficult situations due to his greed after receiving a priceless uncut gem. Howard is a jewelry store owner who sells gems to high profile contacts, including musicians, athletes, and mobsters. Howard can be a bit too happy-go-lucky and think with his wallet instead of his brain, which often hurts his relationships with those around him, whether it be his family or his clients.
Every scene feels claustrophobic. The tight directing and anxiety-inducing camera movements create a sense of unease. The discourse between characters increases in intensity as Daniel Lopatin’s score becomes more eerie and unsettling. It is impossible to look away as the look and sound of the film drag your attention back. Every scene feels like a disaster unfolding before your very eyes. All of these factors combine to make the second most tense film of 2019.
The only real weakness in the direction of the film is the dialogue, or more specifically, how conversations are directed. Characters will often talk over each other, making it hard to follow their conversations. However, this only increases the intensity and anxiety of these moments, allowing for the conversation to feel “real.”
This movie would not work at all if it was not for Sandler’s incredible performance. He perfectly sells the insanity of the lengths Howard will go to get the most out of his investments. As crazy and nonsensical as Howard’s decisions are, you cannot help but feel sorry for him. It was refreshing to see Sandler in a more serious role for a change. I hope we get Sandler in more serious roles in the future, but due to this year’s Academy Awards, this does not seem likely.
Overall, Uncut Gems is an anxiety-inducing experience that will leave you exhausted and questioning how Adam Sandler can manage to give such an unforgettable performance. While this is definitely not for everyone, I highly recommend giving it a watch.