MAJOR spoilers ahead for Uncut Gems.
Despite arriving in theaters back in December, The Safdie Brothers' Uncut Gems has continued to be a subject of conversation within the film world. Many believe that Adam Sandler's manic performance as Howard deserved an Oscar nomination, despite the actor ultimately being subbed. Uncut Gems also recently landed on Netflix, allowing even more people to see the crime thriller. The movie has a bleak ending, and it turns out that one of the most iconic aspects of said ending was decided on the day of filming.
Uncut Gems ends with Howard winning his insane bet, and making a whopping $1.2 million in the process. While it looked like he finally would pay his debts and get a happy ending, but is shot in the head by Phil for locking him in the store's security doors for the entirety of Boston Celtics game. Adam Sandler's protagonist ultimately dies with a smile on his face, as he was shot while celebrating his victory. That smile was added last minute, as Sandler and director/writer Benny Safdie recently explained:
Sandler: Ooh. When I read it the first time. I was as baffled as you were — I didn’t know that was coming either. [To the Safdies] It was a decision [you made] on the day, right, the kinda smiling?
Safdie: Yeah, yeah, 'cause Howard was having such a good time, you know? He was winning! It was so fun, this was what he was doing it for, and it just made sense.
Well, that's fascinating. Howard's smile in the final moments of Uncut Gems is a gut punch of an ending, but is also somewhat comforting for audiences. He was elated during his final moments on this earth, which somehow makes his dark fate easier to digest. And it turns out that detail wasn't always going to occur in the movie.
Adam Sandler and Benny Safdie's comments to EW help to peel back the curtain on Uncut Gems' production. The movie is a uniquely anxiety-inducing ride, as Sandler's protagonist digs himself deeper and deeper into the hole. The final act is thrilling, as he and girlfriend Julia race against the clock to place a bet in time and watch the Celtics game play out. And it turns out that Howard's smile during his death was a choice inspired by the character's history, a well as Sandler's performance on set.
The moments before his death are truly when Howard is the most happy during Uncut Gems. His addiction to gambling strained his financial and personal life, and the movie's 135-minute runtime follows as he get himself into even more dangerous situations with his bookie. But he somehow wins the absolutely bonkers three-tier bet, convinced of the power of the black opal. Howard is manic and full of hope in his final moments, convinced he'd finally gotten out of the woods. That is, until Phil shockingly kills him.
Uncut Gems' ending is just one reason why the movie got so much great word of mouth during its release, allowing it to have a solid box office performance. But now that the movie is available to stream on Netflix, it'll be able to reach a wide global audience. At the time of writing, Uncut Gems is the #1 most trending movie on the streaming service. This is how he wins.
Uncut Gems is currently available on DVD, Blu-ray and to stream on Netflix. Be sure to check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.