A Diamond in the Ruff
It has been a looooong time since I have been able to recommend a new film from The Sandman to anyone who enjoys life. But, Uncut Gems isn’t your average Sandler comedy where he puts on a funny voice. Nope. This is a hard-hitting crime-drama where he puts on a funny-ish voice.
Uncut Gems takes place in 2012 and follows Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a gambling addict who runs a jewelry store in New York City. Howard is constantly shucking and jiving to cover his gambling debts while putting money on the next “sure thing”. But several of the heavies he owes large amounts of cash to, including $100,000 his brother in law Arno (Eric Bogosian), have lost patience and are threatening serious harm if they don’t see any money soon.
In Howard’s mind, he has one shot at getting out of his predicament by reselling a rare black opal he just acquired from Ethiopia that he can re-sell for a considerable profit. Howard hires third parties to bring big-name clients into his store and one brings in Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett (who plays himself). The black opal catches Garnett’s eye and he borrows it for one evening while leaving one of his Championship rings as collateral. That night, of course, Kevin plays a phenomenal game on the court and he now believes the opal brings him some incredible luck.
Kevin wants to buy the opal for $250, 000, which is enough money to get Howard out his debts, but of course, he is looking to score a heck of a lot more as it is already committed to a high-end auction which promises earn him up to $1.4 million. In the meantime, he has already hocked Kevin’s ring, tries to get control of his hot/cold relationship with his girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox), Arno’s associates hold him out of a third-story window while demanding their money, and he is trying to reconnect with his wife Dinah (Idina Menzel).
Yeah, there are a lot of threads happening in this movie, but directors Benny and Josh Safdie keep it all from becoming muddled even while the movie moves at a frantic pace. I felt the anxiety as Howard was juggling all of the people who want a chunk of him and many good choices are made to keep the tension going in this movie. The auction for the opal, for instance, is done well with a woman sitting beside Garnett whispering something in his ear. We don’t know who she is, what she is saying, or if it will affect how much he will bid on the opal.
Now, Adam Sandler isn’t the best actor. In fact, I wonder if they put him up next to Kevin Garnet (who does really act but just recites lines) so we can grade him on a curve. And I did think about bailing on the movie early on when it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to buy into his character. But it might have been my own bias that gave me early trouble because he really did a fine job overall.
I will admit, the movie is about crime and the mob which is all in my wheelhouse. So, that might have made it easier for me to forgive the acting’s cringe-worthy moments. But, I feel the directing made up for it and I appreciate how the movie doesn’t hold back at the end. Let’s just say, that’s how a connected guy does it. No speeches. No hesitation.
Plus, my boy from my TV show Taxi, Judd Hirsh has a nice small role. And I really liked being introduced to Julia Fox for one solid reason. When you see it, you’ll know why and have a better understanding of what kind of man I am. I would absolutely watch this again. #MarsApproved