Uncut Gems – 2019


Directed Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Screenplay Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Starring Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett, Eric Bogosian, Eric Bogosian, Judd Hirsch, Keith Williams Richards, Mike Francesa

Uncut Gems is a movie designed to make no one feel good. A rare black opal pulled out of the Welo mine in Africa in 2010 finds its way into Howard Ratner’s (Sandler) hands in 2012. Howard is a low life jewelry store owner who owes money to his brother in law, Arno (Bogosian) among other people.

Howard’s business associate Demany (Stanfield) brings Kevin Garnett into the store before a game and he sees the jewel, immediately becoming enamored with it. He wants to buy it, but can’t, instead he just borrows it for the night and leads his team to victory in the playoffs. Howard gets Garnett’s championship ring as collateral and immediately pawns it off and wins a parlay bet based on Garnett’s performance. Arno placed a stop on the bet, so he doesn’t get the cash to pay him back.

You see where this is going?

In this movie, winning is losing, and losing is losing, too.

His wife expects the divorce to happen after passover. His girlfriend (Fox) just got caught by Howard snorting cocaine with the Weeknd. He’s continually robbing one part of his life to pay for another. He is an abject failure. He only needs time to score a big win and get him in the clear.

It doesn’t take a genius to know where this is headed.

The Safdie brothers ramp the pace to frenetic throughout the story, giving the viewer enough time to realize why the last plan didn’t work and how the next one should. The performances are good throughout, with Menzel, Fox and Williams Richards particularly effective. It would have been nice to have a bit more of Stanfield’s calm interjected throughout.

Sandler gives one of his better performances as a man caught in a web of his own making, pulling as many strings as possible to see if something breaks loose. When it’s the wrong thing breaking loose, he just keeps pulling.

The Safdie’s are not breaking new ground, but it covers familiar territory like Velma looking for her glasses, in Scooby Doo. We know she’s going to find them, but someone else will get the credit for the win.

(**** out of *****)

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