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  Uncut Gems Sandler Has The Stones
Year: 2019
Director: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Stars: Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Eric Bogosian, Keith William Richards, Judd Hirsch, Mike Francesca, Noa Fisher, Jonathan Aranbayev, Jacob Iglieski, Wayne Diamond, Josh Ostrovsky, Benjy Kleiner, Pom Klementieff
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In Ethiopia in 2010, at a mine there was found a precious collection of opals embedded in one rock, an object of desire for many of those whose exhibitions of wealth are what validates them in society: Western society. Two years later, jeweller Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is placing himself in a bind, for he is juggling various deals to keep his head financially above water. Theoretically, he should be doing very well, but in effect he is in debt to shady businessman Arno (Eric Bogosian) among others, though he believes he has found a way out, and it involves his acquisition of the opals, still in their rock, which he has bought and had shipped to him in New York in a fish...

The Sadfie Brothers had been chipping away at the coalface (or the diamond mine) of the movies with their gritty, nineteen-seventies-influenced character pieces for over ten years before it seemed they finally were awarded their big break. Their previous film demonstrated how much of a debt they owed to one time teen heartthrob turned indie king Robert Pattinson, for Good Time had raised their profile considerably, a crime effort as intense as Uncut Gems but somewhat shorter, as this follow-up garnered a fresh degree of attention, again thanks to their choice of leading man, as many noted it was the first time since Punch Drunk Love that a dramatic Sandler performance had excelled.

Sandler's comedy had long since become the source of much wailing and gnashing of teeth, not least among critics who were glad he was relegated to Netflix by this stage, meaning they did not need to review his output as his fanbase were quite content to vegetate on the sofa before his lowest common denominator material. But here we were told this was something different, as he took his cue from Pattinson and flexed his acting muscles, which many were resigned to thinking had atrophied significantly. Yet when his usual fans were happy to watch his purposefully idiotic humour, those same fans were less likely to appreciate what he and the Safdies had combined forces on.

Indeed, a curious reaction occurred as the audiences with more refined tastes welcomed Sandler like a prodigal son (maybe they had enjoyed Happy Gilmore way back when) and the customers for his comedies tended to reject this for its in your face drama which never let up for two and a quarter hours that did not exactly fly by. Actually, if you examined his jeweller character in this you would find someone not too far removed from his more caricatured personas in those broader than broad items that made him a millionaire many times over, for he was not even with a glancing acknowledgement of subtlety, and in many ways just as over the top and mannered as the likes of The Waterboy in performance. The difference was you were supposed to take Howie very seriously throughout.

To the point of feeling extremely anxious when his schemes went off on various sabotaging tangents, but if you were already aggravated by his personality and the way he and almost everyone else in his world simply shouted at each other to make their points heard and understood, then you may probably find it a chore to watch Uncut Gems, let alone divine any sympathy for a plight that Howie was purely responsible for himself. He managed to get in terrible trouble and turmoil without the help of any negative affect from the more obvious villains, and though a respite was offered when we saw his extended family at a celebration, as if to prove there were people here who had some sort of values that did not involve the pursuit of cash, in the main it was a repetitive series of sequences setting up the anti-hero's plans which look like they cannot fail, only to have them do precisely that. Really, "aggravating" was the key word here, mistaking it for suspense, and though the last twenty minutes pulled it all together, it was a long time coming. Music by Daniel Lopatin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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