Going in to see Uncut Gems, I didn’t know what to expect other than Adam Sandler was in it. That immediately gave me reservations over whether or not I was making the right move in seeing this film since I knew that this wouldn’t be the typical Adam Sandler comedy fare that we have all grown accustomed to love. But with this particular setup and expectation over my indifference because of what roles I’m used to seeing Sandler play, it added positively to my movie-watching experience. And it turned into a pretty enjoyable, suspenseful, and emotional ride.
The aforementioned Sandler is Howard Ratner, a successful New York jeweler and a compulsive gambler who spirals into a series of debts and bets, one of which involves NBA player Kevin Garnett (playing himself), all while trying to balance his failing marriage and his own demons.
Ratner is the type of character you love to hate as he never misses a chance to leverage what he doesn’t have for something he hopes to get. It never occurs to him that he should stop doing just that and as a result, he keeps digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole, that you know eventually will become too much for him to get out of.
But the way the movie draws this out is done masterfully as the film takes us around New York City, especially the Jewel District, and watching the various scenarios unfold of Howard trying to duck and dodge his debts along with the various enforcers of Arno (eric Bogosnian) and his crew.
Fortunately, Howard has his loyal girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox) and associate Demany (LaKeith Stanfield), who’s able to bring in clients like Garnett to fund this lavish lifestyle. The plot’s twists and turns create an emotional rollercoaster because we know that Howard owes this money to Arno and his bad decision making makes him seem like an awful person. I mean, it’s really hard to root for this guy. I can’t remember the last time watching the protagonist of a film and actually not like the guy or gal to this extreme. This goes to show you the effectiveness of Sandler’s performance because I really hated the guy, but yet by the end of the film when the stakes are literally at its highest, I found myself rooting for him anyway. I wanted him to win.
Yes, after the double-dealing and anger mismanagement (especially in a classic scene involving the Weeknd), the ups and downs with his girlfriend, family members, business associates, and even Kevin Garnett, it’s still hard to resist cheering for Howard as he rounds for home on the score of his life.
The supporting cast is made of fascinating, deeply authentic characters that orbit Sandler’s performance and leave an impact. Kevin Garnett, although he’s playing himself, gives a fascinating performance as an athlete who is nothing if determined to win at any cost which is a perfect parallel to Sandler’s character.
There’s so much of Uncut Gems to love, but you get the sense that by the time the ending comes around, the wild ride is going to end in tears. After all, the comedown from something as sustained as this is never going to live up to what came before.