Movie: Uncut Gems
Release Date: Dec. 25, 2019
Director: Josh and Benny Safdie
Runtime: 2 hours 15 minutes
Genre: Crime, drama, mystery
"Uncut Gems," starring Adam Sandler, is a hauntingly thrilling story, but is one that maintains its high-stakes momentum in ways far from typical Hollywood entertainment.
Being an A24 production, "Uncut Gems" was predisposed to follow the unique styles of independent films, but it stands out even more as the film's progression and expression earns its gritty, colorful reputation on its own terms. For a movie that is built from a number of mainstream cultural references, like a Furby toy, Kevin Garnett and The Weeknd, it was surprisingly unlike any mainstream identities.
Most importantly, and what was certainly the draw of this movie, was the main character being played by Adam Sandler. Forever exemplifying the household names of Bobby Boucher or Happy Gilmore, Sandler does not seem like the first choice for a dark story revolving around the vices of humanity; however, this loud comic actor made this film what it was.
Although this is not his first appreciated attempt at more serious acting, his past endeavors "Click," "Spanglish" or "The Cobbler" were satisfying and morally thought provoking yet still occasionally held small comedic elements. This movie, on the other hand, sees him completely devoid of any "Waterboy" screaming. His compelling acting, use of expression, intonation and truth seemed realistic while still portraying a characteristically Sandler-spin on the cheesy, scumbag salesman. He builds a detestably fascinating character for Howard Ratner, a toxic train-wreck that the audience cannot help but ashamedly root for.
Besides the acting, this film’s story previewed the ugly underbelly of society, utilizing the worst aspects of human nature, the vices of humanity and the people that surround them to manifest a roller coaster of uncomfortable emotions. The story follows the cheating trades of “Howie” as he scams and steals his way through life. From start to finish this movie was an adrenaline-fueled race with unsuspecting revelations in a relatively simple story arch. At times, it holds a similar compulsion to being unable to look away from a car wreck, only because of the irresistible horror of how despicable and trashy all the events and characters of the movie are.
The film does a great job portraying a compelling plot with developed characters that are humanized almost to the point of revulsion while also using interesting artistic choices. The realistic scenes almost seem surreal and cartoon-like at times due to the colors and strange stylistic choices. Take, for example, the opening and closing scenes with the dream-like and tranquil feel of the gently moving colors and depictions paired with graphic realizations of the image being the view of a colonoscopy or wound.
It is in no way the typical popcorn entertainment of a Hollywood movie full of heroics resulting in a catharsis that leaves you feeling satisfied, but it is seductive in the same way as Shakespearian tragedies or a show like "Breaking Bad." The sinister darkness of the film, so creatively and irresistibly portrayed, are hauntingly alluring, all for the sake of creating an unforgettably creative and fascinating film.