A24 Films teamed up with the Safdie brothers and along with Adam Sandler, gave Uncut Gems the chaos it so deserved.
Uncut Gems starts in 2010 Ethiopia where miners retrieve a seemingly priceless black opal (diamond) from deep underground. Cut to 2012 New York City, Howard Ratner, a jeweler, and a gambling addict is knee-deep in debt to his loan shark brother in law, Arno.
Being in debt of over $100,000 is no small thing. Combine that with a failing business and cheating on your wife and you have yourself a recipe for disaster. Seeing no other way out, Howard decides to smuggle in the rock to him where it will be sold at an auction for a staggering $1 million.
However, things are never as simple as they seem. Problems keep arising which never let him live in peace. Ratner, in a fit of excitement, decides to show off the rock to Kevin Garnett; a famous basketball star who holds on to it but ends up giving it to someone else who does the same. You get the picture.
When the opal finally does come back to Howard, he finds its value being reduced to just 200,000. Things don’t end there though. Toward the end of the film, we see Howard about to return to his debtors but only to lock them in a small enclosure. He then forces them to watch the game he bet all their money on.
The man wins and proves everyone wrong but gets shot in the head along with Arno by the latter’s own associate.
I had my reservations about Adam Sandler when I started watching Uncut Gems. As someone who’s primarily been in comedy movies, it would be right to assume that Sandler would have been rigid playing the eccentric jeweler.
However, my doubts were quickly dispelled when I realised that Adam fit into Howard Ratner’s life like it was his own. Since the movie is based around the concept of a man’s life coming undone in a single day, the actor had the task of employing his emotional spectrum to the fullest.
Adam Sandler’s acting fit the mould perfectly. From his miniature happiness when he holds the opal to his breakdown in front of his girlfriend, every scene was vivid. The best of his work surely came out toward the end when you could see him prancing around the store like a madman being happy at his life-changing bet.
While there was little to no room for supporting cast, Idina Menzel played her part convincingly enough to the point where I believed she actually hated Sandler. Julia Fox became his lover and surprisingly stuck with him till the end. Props to Kevin Garnett and The Weekend for their appearances in the movie.
One of the strongest factors of Uncut Gems is definitely the acting. A movie based around a single character ends up putting the entire load on the actor. I started the movie in a skeptical mood and ended it with amazement.
Furthermore, be warned that you will not see the ending coming. The story goes through various ups and downs. There will be moments when I felt like this is it but saw Ratner being dropped into another foxhole. When everything lines up in the end, a bullet to the face is something that caught me off guard.
Lastly, I loved the refreshing style I have come to enjoy from films. This studio has always brought a breath of fresh air and Uncut Gems is definitely one of their finest work.
The pacing of the movie is something some people might have a problem with. The movie is a slow burn and makes sure to act like it. While the story develops steadily, it is also slow. There are moments when I found myself begging to be taken to the next scene already. Not necessarily because of anything bad but rather boredom.
Another potential downside is the lack of variety. In the end, the plot of Gems is nothing out of the ordinary. A businessman owing dangerous people and ending up paying with his life is something which has been done before. Having said that, there is a lot to more than what meets the eye though.
Definitely. Despite having some drawbacks and slow moments, Uncut Gems is a movie you should watch as soon as you can. Just don’t go out making bets yourself after you do.