This is going to be a tough one. Critics are absolutely loving this movie and spoiler alert, I definitely didn’t. If you tend to be more ‘artsy’ and you might want to check out something really odd, that’s one thing. I feel like most of the people reading this however are more casual, heading to the movies every so often for escapism. This review is for them.
Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) owns a jewelry store in New York, where he struggles to make ends meet. He’s gotten in a bad habit of gambling and pawning his goods to try to eventually make more money, so he’s unfortunately gotten himself in a bit of debt. One day, one of Howard’s connections Demany (LaKeith Stanfield) brings in the Boston Celtic player Kevin Garnett (played by himself). Garnett gets his eyes on a brand new piece of merchandise, a rare jewel from Ethiopia, and decides it must be his. This triggers a series of events in which Ratner (Sandler) must pursue this endless cycle of gambling and to hopefully sell this jewel for the millions that it’s worth. We also have Idina Menzel, Julia Fox, and the artist The Weeknd.
Yes, Adam Sandler is being applauded for this performance because it’s so unlike every role he’s ever played. So it’s a drastic change and for the most part, he really sells it. Maybe even award-worthy, he’s already won plenty of smaller awards for his performance here, so that trend may continue into Oscar season.
What doesn’t work?
For me, most everything else. I don’t know if I went into this movie with different expectations or maybe I wasn’t in the right state of mind for this… but I found Uncut Gems to be an absolute pain to endure. From the opening scene, even the score alone made me cringe, in dissonant tones and sci-fi sound effects. The movie is gritty and dark, not in the way that we’d want, but rather in a visceral way that made my stomach turn.
It doesn’t help that the plot is entirely downhill. Sandler’s Howard is an irredeemable guy, throwing his life away and making mistake after mistake. He then gets punished for it, emotionally and physically. This is two hours of stressful torture of this guy who clearly deserves it. Now yes, Sandler sells it, so his performance is top notch, but I still ask Who wants to see this? The movie is incredibly anxiety-inducing, my heart racing from start to finish. I didn’t enjoy the experience of watching this film.
I compare this mentally to Nocturnal Animals, another film a few years back that I disagreed with a majority of critics on. That movie won plenty of awards, but I still would never recommend it to someone, especially someone looking for escapism. Uncut Gems, like that film, is for a very specific audience: people that appreciate a darker sense of art, the gritty realism of a man in trouble. I don’t think that’s most of you. My job isn’t to review films that other critics might enjoy, but rather let you know if this movie is worth your time.
I’m going out on a limb and hopefully some of you will appreciate this. Uncut Gems is a hard to watch film, dark and depressing and hopeless. If you’re a fan of that, if you want something tragic, then yes, you might enjoy this film. For most of you, you won’t. Sandler’s performance is the best he’s ever done, unfortunately the movie he’s in won’t be a pleasant experience for any of you.