Uncut Gems (2019) Movie Review

By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –

Howard (Adam Sandler) is a New York City jeweler in the heart of the diamond district. Howie is always looking for the big score and through a multitude of risky maneuvers he attempts to hit the biggest bet he’s ever hit. Whilst trying to win the biggest bet of his life, Howie is having to juggle his family and wife (Idina Menzel), his girlfriend (Julia Fox), and some chance encounters with Kevin Garnet and Howie’s “associate” Demany (LaKeith Stanfield). Lastly, he must avoid some people he owes a large sum of money to. It’s a dizzying high wire act that will leave you breathless by the end.

Who doesn’t want a diamond encrusted furby?

A Toast

I’ve now seen the last three feature length films from the Safdie brothers (Josh & Benny) and each one has been better than the last. They have said in interviews that they had this script for 10 years trying to get this made and if they had succeeded earlier this film wouldn’t be the monumental thrill ride that it is. Whilst making their previous films they were honing their craft, building to this great work. I loved their last film Good Time and gave it a Toast review; Robert Pattinson gave possibly the greatest performance of his career so far. I didn’t know how they would top that film, and yet they have exceeded my expectations. They build on everything from Good Time in Uncut Gems. Another standout performance from the main character. The score is still this synthwave arrangement reminiscent of Tangerine Dream’s scores in the 80s. The editing is so fast-paced its 130+ minute runtime absolutely flies. They also give their films a gorgeous aesthetic that many independent filmmakers strive for.

The main thing that made me fall in love with this film is the feeling of pure anxiety you get while watching. Literally, and I mean that in the real sense, not the misused way so many people use it nowadays. Literally, my palms were sweating for the final 40 minutes of the film. I was squirming in my chair, wiping my palms on my jeans, just hoping that things weren’t going to get worse. I’ve never been more anxious in my life except for maybe a few years ago when the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

It’s a mixture of the rapid editing and the sharp script that make the film as anxious as it is, not too mention the brilliant performances. One thing the Safdie’ do in this film that I think is a sign of a brilliant screenwriter is to take minute moments or scenes and have them come back later in a big way. Hitchcock and Tarantino are the first to come to mind that also do this. They also let the audience realize it instead of doing a flashback; doing the flashback is like they don’t trust the audience. There are a few moments like this in the film, but one in particular plays a huge role, making the ending that much more anxiety-inducing.

Lastly, there has been a lot of praise sent Adam Sandler’s way for his portrayal of Howard Rattner, but I want to stoke that fire as well. This is the role he was born to play. Much like his role in PTA’s Punch-Drunk-Love as Barry, he shows he is one of the few actors and possibly the best at mixing anger and comedy. The anger isn’t as prominent in Uncut Gems as it was in Punch-Drunk-Love, but it is real and pulsating, and simultaneously funny. He also brings Howard to life and makes him just pathetic enough that you begin to empathize with him, until the end when you’re actually rooting for him. It’s a testament to the writing and performance that create a character you disagree with every action of but are still rooting for to win in the end. This is one of the best performances of the year and probably of Sandler’s career.

I want to give a quick shoutout to a few more performances I liked as well. Kevin Garnett does well here and could make a living as a character actor. Lakeith is brilliant as always, I love seeing everything he does. Idina Menzel is great as his wife, we’re getting to see a grittier side of Idina.  We need to see more of that side. Lastly, Julia Fox as Julia is a true breakout. I loved her performance, and I see a bright future ahead of her.

Off topic, I loved this score so much.  It’s a shame it didn’t make the Oscar shortlist because I’ve been listening to it on repeat and this the synth score is brilliant.

Verdict

Uncut Gems is a rollercoaster filled with anxiety. It’ll keep you on the edge of your seat and sweating nervously till the end. If you didn’t know who the Safdie brothers were before this you will now.

Uncut Gems (2019) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time someone says “Howard”.

Do a Shot: every time Howard is hit.

Take a Drink: every time you wipe your palms dry.

Do a Shot: every time you wish Howard would stop.

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