- BOTTOM LINE: Adam Sandler Shines in This Trippy, Unpredictable Outing
|Platform: Netflix||Genre: Crime|
What Is the Story About?
New York-based Howard Ratner, an owner of a jewelry store and a voracious gambler, tries to revive his sorry financial situation through a deal surrounding the black opal, a gem unearthed by Ethiopian Jewish miners. His addiction for gambling has gotten the better of him over the years and he woos basketball sensation Kevin Garnett to buy the rare opal in a million dollar transaction.
Howard gets into a deeper mess as he raises a loan by pawning the opal to bet on Garnett’s performance for the night. From getting into an ugly fight with his money-lender brother-in-law Arno about his financial debts to convincing his father-in-law to bid for the gem at the auction and winning a sum of $1.2 million in the game, the gambler’s life takes interesting turns in a matter of days. Where would this ultimately take him to?
Uncut Gems is an Adam Sandler show all the way. The effort he has put to get into the skin of the character is immense – from the look to his body language and the uncanny dialogue delivery, the actor makes it all appear spontaneous. Lakeith Stanfield’s casting as Dermany, the decision to rope in basketball player Kevin Garnett to play a fictionalized version of himself is pitch-perfect. Idina Menzel’s on-screen presence, Keith Williams Richards’ no-nonsense act adds value to the film.
Music and other departments:
Daniel Lopatin’s jumpy background score, the closeted, suffocating visual atmosphere within the limited number of backdrops seen through the film, ensure a tightly-knit product whose tonal consistency is worth emulating. An emotional angle to the characters, their behavior, probably supplemented by subtle humor could have made Uncut Gems a more-watchable experience.
The director-duo Josh and Benny Safdie in a narrative largely inspired by true events maintain a one-of-a-kind anxiety-inducing tone through the 130-minute duration. This is probably their attempt to reflect the uncertain, edgy behavior of the film’s protagonist Howard Ratner. The detailing of the murky deals between jewelers, gamblers and the elite strata of society is meticulous here.
The viewer gets an insider’s glimpse into the bargaining that happens with the agents and clients, the ability of a cash-strapped gambler to raise money in the direst of situations, the dangers associated with the profession and how the lust for money can prove to be a drug one can’t get enough of. The atmospherics of the film is one of its primary strengths – there’s tension in the air, the visuals are in complete sync with the writing, there’s manipulation in every nook and corner to keep a spectator curious, the characters are vulnerable and shrewd at the same time, adding bite to the proceedings.
The film is helmed in a manner such that it’ll either have die-hard fans or haters and nothing in between. On the flip side, the portrayal of the ugliness in the trade is raw. Everyone in the film is persistently shouting at the top of their voices and is ready to rip each other apart if given a chance. The relationships within the story are all money-driven, everything about it is grey. There’s no emotional hook for you to invest in their journeys, which is a reason why the film stops short of being great.
The ending, however, surprises with its suddenness and is a fitting finale for a story that’s all about the b***h that karma is. Uncut Gems is a film you’ll remember for its sheer unpredictability, the efforts of the technical team for its trippy visual texture (that matches its content) and of course, the solid performance of Adam Sandler as the hasty gambler/jeweler.
Music and Other Departments?
Daniel Lopatin’s jumpy background score, the closeted, suffocating visual atmosphere within the limited number of backdrops seen through the film, ensure a tightly-knit product whose tonal consistency is worth emulating. An emotional angle to the characters, their behaviour, probably supplemented by subtle humour could have made Uncut Gems a more-watchable experience.
Adam Sandler’s performance
The consistency in tone maintained through the film
Befitting contributions from the technical team
Its generalised, manipulative look at human greed
The absence of an emotional hook
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Not for everyone.
Uncut Gems Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur
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