“Uncut Gems” is directed by Josh and Benny Safdie and stars Adam Sandler (Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore), Kevin Garnett (Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault, NBA 2K19), Idina Menzel (Frozen, Glee), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Knives Out), Julia Fox, Eric Bogosian (Billions, Law & Order: Criminal Intent), and this film tends to revolve around a jeweler from New York, who is always looking for big bets. He’s a bit of a gambler, and if you watch this movie, there are times in which it resembles a tad of an obsession. The film follows one big bet story and dives into the actions of the jeweler as a character as he tries to balance work, family, and adversaries.
If you told me back in September that Adam Sandler was coming out with a new film, there is a good chance that I would have just responded to you saying “That’s cute,” and move on. However, to my surprise, “Uncut Gems” seems to have been met with high praise and many positive reviews. To me, this is an utter surprise, because as much as I like Adam Sandler, as funny as I think he is, his work in the realm of feature film is not always the best. “Grown Ups” is honestly one of the decade’s worst comedies. I haven’t even seen “Jack and Jill” so I think I am in a safe place at the moment. I liked “Pixels,” kind of… However, it does not take much away from what Adam Sandler did back in the day. I really liked “Happy Gilmore,” “Click,” and “Big Daddy.” In fact, “Big Daddy,” at least to me, is probably one of the most overlooked comedies that I have seen in my life. It’s a film that manages to balance being sweet, while also being incredibly immature, and somehow working. For that, everyone behind the movie has my respect.
I also had the privilege of seeing this movie early on December 8th, at the Boston premiere. The city just opened the new Arclight by TD Garden, which I may do a post on eventually if I feel like it. Me, alongside the rest of the audience, happened to be introduced to the movie by the Safdie brothers, the directors of the film, Kevin Garnett, who plays a supporting role, and Adam Sandler himself. They said hi, Sandler supported a nine or ten year old kid (and their parents) up front for coming to an R rated movie. The experience of seeing this movie was a fairly unique one, some might even call it awesome. Was the movie as awesome as the experience of going to see it? Yeah, I’d say so.
This is an interesting project given what’s entailed. It’s a rarity to see an actor like Adam Sandler taking on a serious role and project like he did here. He has my respect. The Safdie brothers do a really good job at directing this film. And one of the best parts of the film overall, and I really hope this does not get overlooked during awards season, is the musical score by Daniel Lopatin, who also did the music for “The Bling Ring” and “Good Time,” another film directed by the Safdie brothers. Just from early on in the film, it got in my head. It has this very mystical vibe that is kind of hard to describe. If they had to make an original song to describe part of the “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinte” sequence in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” part of this score would be a good way to do so. If I had to compare this to other films, maybe I’d compare it to maybe “Blade Runner,” perhaps “The Neon Demon.”
But let’s be real, this is Adam Sandler’s movie. And I mean that 100%. I have not seen all of Adam Sandler’s work. Heck, to this day I haven’t even seen “The Wedding Singer” or “Billy Madison.” However, if I had to compare this movie, in terms of Sandler’s performance, to anything else that he’s done, this is EASILY my favorite performance that he has given. And I think a lot of it has to do with the writing, because this character is taken a lot more seriously than Adam’s previous roles, and the directing, because Adam feels like he is a little more subtle than usual. Granted, there are moments that resemble a typical Adam Sandler performance like over the top yelling and moving around like crazy. But the thing is, when it comes to these tendencies from Adam Sandler, it feels a lot more grounded and much less goofy. I know Sandler took on a role in “The Meyerowitz Stories” which earned him a Critics Choice nomination, but I have a feeling that this role is going to be remembered for a longer period of time. For the record, I have not seen “The Meyerowitz Stories,” but I am aware of its existence. When it comes to Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems,” I felt moved, I felt like I was there for the ride, and ultimately, Sandler manages to deliver an unbelievable amount of charisma to the table.
And speaking of solid performances, I will also give kudos to one of the bigger surprises for me in the film and that is Kevin Garnett. Granted, his role is not all that complicated, because he does play himself. But based on his delivery in this film, I would not mind seeing more of him in other movies. Maybe he’ll be the next Dwayne Johnson or John Cena, one of those big sports stars who ends up going into the entertainment realm. In fact, much of the movie revolves around him and is based on events that took place during a big NBA playoff session. Speaking of celebrity appearances in this film, the Weeknd makes an appearance, and sort of dives into a fraction his life prior to today.
As for negatives, even though “Uncut Gems” is a really solid movie, a gritty, punch-packing, exciting thrill of a flick, I don’t see myself going back to theater to watch it again. If I ever find it on Blu-ray, I’ll definitely pick it up if I am ever in the mood. I think this movie contains bar none, the best performance ever given by Adam Sandler, but it’s not like one of those movies that I feel would require a second or third viewing because it is THAT good. Then again, there is another part of me, that thinks would need a second or third viewing to see if I missed anything subtle. This movie made me curious. It allowed me to wonder what was going to happen next. This feels like one of those movies that could end up being better on a second viewing, because this first viewing, while entertaining, feels like something I should process for a long period of time, but I am ultimately forced to in just a matter of a couple of hours. Technically, across the board, this film rocks. The music, the cinematography, the makeup, all of it works. I just don’t know if I’ll flock to it again. I love the screenplay, very much so in fact, but if it weren’t for very minor issues, it would almost be near perfect. “Uncut Gems” is a good movie, one of Adam Sandler’s finest in fact, so if that does not resemble a fine time at the cinema, I don’t know what does.
In the end, I think “Uncut Gems” is a damn fine film. It’s a GOOD TIME. Pun intended for those of you familiar with the Safdie brothers. I wouldn’t mind listening to the soundtrack at 2 in the morning while everyone else in my neighborhood is asleep as I write my screenplays like a madman. And even though Adam Sandler is often defined as a joke when it comes to actors today, I think this is a career-defining performance as far as he’s concerned. It’s honestly unlike anything I have seen from him. Now will he win an Oscar for it? It’s still hard to tell. I would not be surprised if he gets nominated. After all, despite not being nominated for the Golden Globes, he did win the Best Actor award from the National Board of Review, and he was just recently nominated for a Critics Choice Award. It’s still possible. Would Sandler be snubbed if he’s not nominated? From my perspective, I still need to think about that. We’ll just have to see. I’m going to give “Uncut Gems” an 8/10.
Thanks for reading this review! And if you are reading this review the week it has been released, you are in luck because I am about to remind you it is officially “STAR WARS” WEEK! This week is the official release of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” I am going opening night, and I will have my review up (hopefully) on Friday morning. If not, it’ll be up by the end of the day, or sometime later during the weekend. Speaking of reviews, I will be seeing another movie this week, “Bombshell.” This film is based on the scandal revolving around Fox News’ Roger Ailes. I will have my thoughts on that film up as soon as possible, hopefully by Wednesday or Thursday. Only time will tell. If you want to see more content like this, be sure to follow Scene Before, like this post, and if you want to help me out a little more, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Uncut Gems?” What did you think about it? Or, who is an actor you thought couldn’t be taken seriously, but eventually turned themselves around for you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!