Sunday, December 22, 2019

Review: Prepare Adam Sandler for his Oscar! A look at "Uncut Gems"

Uncut Gems Review
There are two brothers making a blaze through the system right now. They are the Safdie brothers. There's Joshua and there's a Benjamin Safdie. They are making some of the grittiest of gritty dramas. Taking us to the sweaty, realistic underbelly of the worlds they create. They made their statement back in 2009 with "Daddy Longlegs," one of the most harrowing look at the ideal "worst parent ever." Now being a daddy myself, that movie made me shake. Violently shake. It's an unrelenting, maddening experience and I can't believe I survived it. What really got people talking though was "Good Time," for good reason. It's a magnificent movie, and put Robert Pattinson on my radar in a big way, I'm absolutely confident he'll be a fine Batman.

Speaking of Robert Pattinson, I think the Safdie brothers are gifted with pushing their actors. You are all going to say over and over that we've never seen Adam Sandler like this. But that's hogwash. Sure, Sandler is our favorite cringe-worthy goofball, but he's done serious stuff before. Check him out in "Reign Over Me." Check him out in "Punch-Drunk Love." Sandler has never been a one-trick pony. He's been gearing up for this role for a long time and he's got many hidden talents. The two people that shocked me the most in this movie were Idina Menzel, who plays Sandler's disgruntled wife in this movie. John Travolta was right, she's wickedly talented and she's a one-and-only. Forget "Frozen" and forget "Enchanted." Menzel brings herself to a whole new level here. And NBA star Kevin Garnett? He may be playing himself but man...he's good, he's really good.

The true discovery here is Julia Fox, who simply plays Julia. She's one of Sandler's employees and his secret girlfriend. Man, is she a discovery. She's beautiful inside and out, but she's not one of those some convenient background character. She brings real depth and development to a character who could have easily been one-note. She makes us believe in the love she shares with Sandler's character. I can't tell you what's next for Julia Fox, but I hope we get to see more of her in the future because she is a star in the making.

So what the hell is "Uncut Gems" about exactly? Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner and we catch Mr. Ratner on the worst week of his life. He's got his own jewelry store in the Diamond District, but he's got a gambling addiction and several people are knocking on his door for money all the time. His marriage with Dinah (Menzel) is slowly falling apart. He's got some luck though, or so he thinks. A rare uncut opal from Ethiopia shows up at his door and he values it at a million dollars. He is ready to auction it off. This could make all of his money woes gone forever, he just has to survive and keep himself sane until the auction. But for a guy who has a gambling addiction and already owes lots of money, that's easier said than done. 

The Safdie brothers have an interesting gift. They like playing with color and gritty shadow with their shots. The cinematography by Darius Khondji is amazing. There is a greasy and grimey realism to their movies and "Uncut Gems" is no exception. There is a beauty to all the chaos in this movie, and don't get me wrong, this movie is chaotic. Howard Ratner is basically a walking trainwreck in this movie. But the performances are great all around, and the look and feel of the movie gives you a high unlike any other.

This a confident, contact-high of a movie. Something I feel like I won't be able to shake for awhile. This is instant recognition of something great, something I know will be apart of my life for awhile. Much like with "Good Time," if you need a happy ending, you are looking in the wrong place. The Safdie brothers keep it real the whole time. But there are laughs and there is drama and there is pulse-pounding excitement. There are only a few more days left in 2019, if you need to squeeze one more in, make it this one.


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