Unappreciated greatness: Uncut Gems deserves better


taken from kcci.com

Funny guy Adam Sandler shows some real acting chops in Uncut Gems

Give credit where credit is due. Although many great movies often go unrecognized each year, I was disappointed when the nominations for the 2020 Oscars came out, only to find that Uncut Gems had not received a single nomination.

A 2019 indie film starring Adam Sandler, the story follows him as shady jewelry store owner, Howard Ratner, in Manhattan’s famous diamond district. Ratner has a severe gambling addiction that plagues his life. Making unnecessarily large bets that he cannot pay off, Ratner begins a dark descent as he struggles to pay off his previous debts.

Pictured left to right: Garnett, Stanfield, Sandler

I think that it’s pretty fair to say that when most people hear the name, “Adam Sandler,” the first thoughts that pop into their minds are Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. What is one theme that all these movies share? They are all lighthearted, easy-to-watch, and they will give you some cheap laughs.

Therefore, Adam Sandler is not a very “serious” actor in many people’s eyes. For anyone who thinks this, I challenge you to watch Uncut Gems. Sandler gives, in my opinion, one of the top five lead-actor performances of 2019. Transitioning from his usual dumb guy/goofball comedic roll, Sandler transforms into a dark and complicated gambler whose addiction overshadows all else in his life.

The film stars some other big names, including Kevin Garnett (former NBA player), Idina Menzel (actress; Frozen), Lakeith Stanfield (actor; Get Out), Julia Fox (making her acting debut), and The Weeknd (Grammy award-winning artist). Although this may seem like a somewhat random group of people, the cast ends up blending together perfectly.

If there has ever been a movie that has mastered the art of suspense, the award goes to Uncut Gems. The further we get into the story, the more apparent Ratner’s gambling addiction becomes. Constantly placing large bets on NBA games, Ratner is unable to pull himself out of the hole. Each bet placed brings a new feeling of suspense, leaving the viewer to wonder whether the bet will pay off, or if Howard will continue his sad descent in his growing financial crisis.

As the movie progresses, I must admit that it becomes hard not to feel bad for Howard. Although he is not the most stand-up person (spending little time with his family, cheating on his wife, and wasting all his family’s money on gambling), he does make attempts at doing the right thing. A scene that was particularly hard to watch took place about halfway through the film, as Howard breaks down at his desk and asks why nothing ever goes right for him. This made me realize that although there are many other people in the movie who could be considered antagonists, Howard’s biggest enemy is really himself, and his inability to break free of his bad habits.

Sandler’s character, Howard Ratner, walks up a bustling Manhattan sidewalk

I cannot overstate how impressive Sandler’s performance is. The fact that he was not nominated for a single Oscar is mind-blowing to me, because in my eyes, he perfected that role. Even though he was playing a character that was the exact opposite of Happy Gilmore or Billy Madison, Sandler managed to breakout from his usual role, and become a seemingly whole different actor.

Overall, the movie was outstanding. Although I already discussed how Sandler gave an exemplary performance, the other cast members cannot go unnoticed.  Each actor/actress seemed to fit their role perfectly and I applaud the Safdie Brothers, the directors, for making such brilliant casting choices. From the movie’s almost mysterious opening, to its many suspenseful and intense scenes, which ultimately lead up to the shocking ending, I found that I could not look away as the movie went on.

I hope this film is a realization to not only everyone who watches it, but Sandler himself that he has what it takes to star in more dramatic and darker roles than what he is previously used to. To conclude, I would recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a movie to keep them on the edge of their seats, who is looking for a movie that they will not be able to look away from, or who is looking for a movie that illustrates the talent of not only the cast members, but the writers, directors, and the crew in its entirety.