“This is me! This is how I win”-Uncut Gems
Release Date: February 7th, 2020. Dir: Josh and Benny Safdie
Google Summary: A charismatic jeweller makes a high-stakes bet that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. In a precarious high-wire act, he must balance business, family and adversaries on all sides in pursuit of the ultimate win.
Original Rating: 7/10
Short Explanation: Four words: Adam Sandler was robbed.
Long Explanation: This movie confused me. It also took me three days to get through it. That being said, I did think that there was much to look forward to in this movie. The movie follows Howard Ratner (aka Adam Sandler) as he uncovers a precious gem, which despite the title of the movie, actually doesn’t play a large role in the plot line.
I think in terms of plot line, I was really confused when we would actually get to the point of the movie. It felt like we were following Howard as he hunted down this gem and as he was pursued by debt collectors, but it felt more like a movie that involved watching him run errands. When the gem was finally secured, that’s when the movie finally started to get interesting. This gem, which seems valuable, is not actually as valuable as Howard makes it out to be. I almost thought that this was a metaphor for the movie industry as a whole, a movie is not always as valuable as it’s made out to be, and many members of the movie industry take risks like Howard, hoping for a good payoff (spoiler alert: it never comes). The debt collectors follow Howard around waiting for the payoff, but we’re never actually given much context as to how much money he owes them or how long he has been under their thumb.
We also see quite a bit of Howard’s personal life, which is marked by his disintegrating marriage and absolutely toxic affair. This actually turned out to be the most captivating part of the movie. It’s made really clear that Howard doesn’t have much support in his life. He’s constantly contacting people who want absolutely nothing to do with him, which I think is an interesting testimony to his character because in order to have earned such ire from the people in his life, he would’ve had to build rapport with these people and I wonder how he did it? His character is so fast-talking that it adds to the anxiety of the whole film. The viewer is always questioning how Howard gets away with his actions.
I think this is where Adam Sandler makes much of the movie. Though we follow him through several seemingly meaningless tasks, they aren’t without purpose. These events are marked by his interactions with the different characters which leads to the question: why incorporate these interactions? My answer connects to the ending of the film. The ending of the film wouldn’t have happened if Howard hadn’t truly cut all ties with the people in his life. He would’ve had a stronger support system and that wouldn’t lead to his downfall. I think that this connects to the metaphor about the film industry (disclaimer: this may or may not be true) in the sense that powerful movie moguls often find themselves in a bad situation alone. The loneliness factor leads to an quicker downfall (i.e Harvey Weinstein). When people don’t like the target, the target falls faster. Moral of the paragraph, this movie could not have been made without Adam Sandler. He keeps the movie alive and what impressed me the most was that this was a role that was seemingly out of his personality. I think we’re all so used to seeing Sandler in silly roles which probably causes many people to underestimate him. This movie should prove everyone (myself included) wrong. He deserved an Oscar. I stand by it.
The other beautiful aspect about this movie is the setting. This movie is meant to take place in 2012 and the Safdie brothers do a wonderful job of recreating the 2012 atmosphere. I genuinely loved the incorporation of the Weekend. Instead of introducing a new song, he plays one that was popular around 2012 which is really quite genius. One of the opening scenes had a Furby which made me practically die laughing. It’s a quite well-shot and well set up movie. I think this adds to the charm of the movie and also adds higher stakes (I think because there was the premonition that the world was going to end, just another one of my side thoughts though).
Now, on to what I didn’t like about it. This movie did take me three days to get through for the fact that I couldn’t stay engaged. I can acknowledge that Sandler and Safide brothers created a masterpiece but I find that only in retrospect. Perhaps that’s the kind of movie this is, one that is meant to be thought about later in a larger context. I just realized that I could not sit through it at all. I also have a bit of a problem with movies where I can guess the ending, though I don’t think the ending was meant to be a surprise at all. I think that the Safdie brothers wanted a predictable ending because the meaning of the movie is not so predictable. But, that’s just my theory.
Afterthought rating: 9/10
Overall Conclusion: Uncut Gems is not a movie that you sit through for a wild ride. Uncut Gems is a movie that makes you look at a popular industry a little differently, something that I don’t think many movies do. What really saved this movie was Sandler’s acting and the set designs. I’ll give the Safide brothers credit for creating an extremely complex movie successfully.
P.S. There’s a really nice interview with the Safdie brothers on my favorite movie podcast Truth&Movies from Little White Lies. I think it’s on Spotify but I’ll link it here anyways.