As viewers follow Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) in Uncut Gems, they are taken on a non stop thrill ride while watching him make one risky move after another--all in the pursuit of greatness. Many critics and fans have united to say that Uncut Gems is a pretty great movie, especially if you enjoy movies that give you anxiety.
Uncut Gems is about Howard obtaining a rare black Opal gem. He shows it off to NBA superstar Kevin Garnett, who becomes obsessed with it. Meanwhile, various dangerous men are looking to collect debts from Howard, because of his various bets, scams, and bad deals. Uncut Gems follows the events of a few days in Howard's life. Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, and Julia Fox have supporting roles. Now the film has become available to millions of movie fans through Netflix. If you’ve been debating giving this movie a chance, let's take a sporadic journey and discuss why Uncut Gems is a must-watch.
Adam Sandler’s Performance
The Academy Awards may have snubbed him, but once again, Adam Sandler proves he’s more than just a comedic actor who sometimes makes funny voices. Sandler shows Howard’s many dimensions through facial expression, dialogue, and his interactions with others. Sometimes you like him, other times he’s annoying, and you go back and forth between rooting for him and rooting against him. Howard is a character that polarizes in the best way. He’s a dynamic character that could only come alive on screen with the right actor, and Adam Sandler is that actor.
His natural performance gives Howard believability. He feels like someone you may know, or someone you’ve encountered at least once in your life. Sandler’s Howard has just enough subtleness to be an understated performance. Adam Sandler’s performance is what drives this suspenseful movie forward and gives it the layers it needs to succeed.
The Supporting Cast's Performances
A captain is only as good as his crew, and Sandler is able to shine even more because of the supporting cast that helped elevate his performance. Uncut Gems has a nearly perfect cast with every actor fitting into their role seamlessly. Idina Menzel gives one of her best big screen performances as Howard’s wife Dinah. It’s a small role but vital in how it helps paint a full picture of Howard and his life.
Julia Fox is a newcomer, but completely stands out as Howard’s mistress Julia. With Uncut Gems, Lakeith Stanfield once again proves why he’s one to watch and a potential future Oscar contender. Each supporting character feels fully formed, and a person who both hates and at least cares a little about Howard, despite themselves. Even very small roles like Howard’s children feel very thought out and carefully selected. Without the strong supporting cast, Uncut Gems might not have provided as much entertainment.
Uncut Gems Keeps You Engaged And Nervous All Throughout The Movie
My favorite suspenseful movies are ones where the suspense comes from heightened everyday situations, and most of the action and drama comes from the main protagonist or antagonist’s obsessions and character flaws (give me the suspense of Whiplash over a Mission Impossible movie any day). Those movies really pull me in and give me extreme anxiety. Uncut Gems is one of those movies. The suspense comes from Howard being such a chaotic character. No matter how many times he lucks out, it’s never enough. He has to go for the bigger prize, the greatest win. Just when you think you know what Howard will do, he switches things up.
Uncut Gems as a whole works in that way as well. There is some foreshadowing in the movie, but I didn’t notice it until the second viewing. I think most first time viewers will miss it as well. This makes Uncut Gems truly unpredictable from opening credits to the very end. The film’s pacing keeps you invested and stressed out all throughout.
To Witness The Safdie Brothers’ Directing Style
The Safdie brothers (Benny and Josh Safdie) haven’t been in the film industry very long, but with their few film projects, they’re developing a signature style. I’m not going to pretend to be a Safdie brothers’ movie expert, but the few films I’ve seen from them, they’re really strong writers/directors, with an attention to detail, talent for creating unstable but captivating worlds, and a love for chaotic main characters.
After watching Uncut Gems, you’ll probably want to see some of their other films, like critically acclaimed Good Time with Robert Pattinson, or some of their earlier films like Heaven Knows What or the documentary Lenny Cooke. Uncut Gems is a good introduction to the cinematic world of the Safdie brothers.
For The Clever Integration Of Celebrity Cameos
Many films with celebrity cameos just toss them in there: A character walks into a room, and then there is a celebrity randomly there without a real purpose besides being famous, or a cameo is put in one scene and it’s cool to see but doesn’t feel relevant to the film’s plot. Uncut Gems only has a few celebrity cameos and each one feels thoughtfully placed. The biggest one is by Kevin Garnett who plays a major role in the movie, and helps set up most of the events in it.
There is a smaller cameo by The Weeknd, and his role is tied to another set of important events. I don’t want to spoil anything but there are other cameos, and one of them towards the end of the film feels very random but it also fits with the chaotic narrative and Howard’s persona.
It Gives A Sobering Look At Gambling Addiction
Howard is such a polarizing character because Uncut Gems (at its core) is a movie about a gambling addiction and how that addiction manifests in many different aspects of life. Even when Howard gets what he wants, he doesn’t know how to just quit. The thrill of winning surpasses all logic and reasoning. He’ll do whatever it takes to get the big score, but that doesn’t exist for him.
There will always be something bigger and better for him to win. Even when Uncut Gems seems to make you cheer on Howard, he does something to remind you why his addiction to gambling will never let him be satisfied. It’s a thrilling movie to watch, but it also very clearly has a deeper message about excess, addiction, and the consequences of gambling your life away.
It Crosses Film Genres
Uncut Gems falls into several different film genres: dark comedy, drama, suspense, thriller, and so on. Bringing in different elements of different genres helps the film stay fresh. Just when Uncut Gems feels like it’s going too dark, it does something to make you laugh, or just when you’re laughing at Howard, the film does something to make you gasp.
By not fully going into one box, Uncut Gems is able to appeal to a variety of film fan preferences. It keeps you guessing while providing an array of entertaining variables.
Uncut Gems is one of the most interesting movies of 2019, and with the power of streaming services, it continues to find new audiences. Uncut Gems is currently available to stream on Netflix. Stream it on Netflix here.
Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.
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