Tag Archives: Benny Safdie

Review: Uncut Gems

Theatrical Release Poster

Well the hype is real. I feel like my life has changed. Adam Sandler is actually a phenomenal actor. I feel like everything I’ve seen from him up till now has been a prank . Still in awe. Also the Safdie brothers are geniuses and I need to watch everything they’ve done. If you can’t guess by now, Uncut Gems, is one of the best movies of 2019 and this past decade and had me completely floored by the end of the 135 minute run-time.

This movie is an assault on the senses and I mean that in the most literal way. The way it’s directed from the camera movement to sound design is meant to induce a state of panic and anxiety. If you suffer from those issues already, the film may be too much and I genuinely think you should go see it with someone even if you don’t suffer from them. Now that the warning is out of the way- holy wow. I thought I was losing it during the film because of the way sound would keep cutting in. There is auditory clutter that makes it feel like you can’t hear yourself think. It keeps you on edge and tense – you have to focus to get at bits and I felt like the movie was sweeping me along. There’s always something going happening on the screen so it feels like your senses are constantly befuddled. I thought it was perfect – I haven’t been this purely immersed in a film in a genuinely long time. I could feel my heart pumping out of my chest by the time I started getting out of my seat.

All of this synergizes perfectly with the plot which follows Howard (Adam Sandler), a jeweler who has a “bit” of a debt issue and a huge gambling problem. There’s a constant sense of tension as Howard traverses from one deal to another, desperate to keep the antagonistic forces coming for him at bay. There’s also a lot of comedy – from the dysfunction of different schemes playing out differently than imagined or just Sandler exuding persona. It’s a perfect complement to the tension at play. Speaking of tension – a lot of it revolves around the NBA. If you like basketball (or are just a huge Kevin Garnett fan) this movie has a lot of fun moments for you. I remember feeling excitement about games that happened years ago but almost like I was reliving them viscerally because of how the sport is talked about and utilized. On top of all of this, there’s ripe family drama and watching the dysfunction play out is more than entertaining. Watching all these intersecting threads come together is a delight and makes the story feel like a train-wreck waiting to happen.

A story is only as good as its characters and this film has them in spades. Sandler’s performance as Howard is mesmerizing. I was rooting for him the whole film, but the character is scum-bag with a heart of gold(?). However, Sandler adds a depth of nuance to that that makes him far more complex and grounded. He goes from caring father, to inconsiderate lover, to gambling addict. Each transformation feels in place and all of them come together to make one of the most interesting protagonists of 2019. This movie would not work without Sandler – if Howard was unlikable or unbelievable the tension wouldn’t be as profound because there wouldn’t be real stakes.

Thankfully, Sandler is accompanied by a slew of actors (some of whom are acting for the first time) who let him really shine and show off the range of his emotions. If someone told me that Kevin Garnett could act as well as he could play basketball before now I wouldn’t believe it. Now all I want is more movies with him. He’s cool and aloof at one point and fanatical the next – watching him tango with Sandler is immensely satisfying. Julia Fox’s performance injects some much needed levity to the movie – she never takes away from the tension – she just helps accentuate it with proper changes in demeanor. Finally, Keith Williams Richards is absolutely terrifying as Phil. The fact that this is his first movie ever is shocking – he absolutely sold the underlying crime portion of the story and amplified the tension every time he was on the screen. I want to mention everyone but that would be way too many people – literally even minor characters get more characterization in this movie than some primary characters in other movies.

This film is one of the best depictions I’ve ever seen of gambling and addiction. When the thrill is high and the game is at play, we feel like Howard- ecstatic. When he wins, I win – or that’s how I felt as I saw his schemes playing out. However, it works the same way with losses. Whenever something went wrong or could go wrong, I felt tense. Twitchy. Anxious. Since the movie aims to put the audience into the same mood as Howard, every twist or reveal feels that much more serious. It also becomes comprehend how someone could become completely lost in game. This is why the movie worked for me – I feel like I got Howard and wanted him to succeed in spite of himself and the situation he was in and I absolutely should not have felt that way- which is kind of great in a perverse kind of way.

Rating

TLDR: An absolute attack on all fronts – this movie is like a roller coaster that never stops and rarely slows down. Sandler is a tour de force and the Safdie brothers know how to keep the audience engaged.

Final Rating: 10/ 10. I was left speechless after the movie. There are so many beautiful scenes, funny moments, and terrifying

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!