Uncut Gems (2019)
Directed by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie
Starring Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel and LaKeith Stanfield
Editor’s note: Don’t like to read? Click over and watch a video of Tim lip syncing to someone reading it out loud instead.
Every ten years or so, someone trots out an Adam Sandler film and labels his performance as a “serious role.” Paul Thomas Anderson tried it with Punch Drunk Love (2002), and it worked. Then Judd Apatow did it in 2009 with Funny People, and it didn’t. Would the Safdie Brothers be able to convince us that their lead could try again and hit the mark?
With the duo’s directorial debut, Good Time (2017), Benny and Josh Safdie created Connie Nikas, and coerced us into rooting for the ultimate New York dirtbag. And though Adam Sandler is no Robert Pattinson, his portrayal as Howard Ratner in 2019’s Uncut Gems, another New York dirtbag we’re coerced into rooting for, is quite compelling.
Gems‘ supporting cast shines far above the brothers’ first film, with Julia Fox as side piece Julia De Fiore and Idina Menzel as Ratner’s resentful wife. There are strong performances from LaKeith Stanfield and, oddly enough, Kevin Garnett.
Speaking of Garnett, the way the brothers weaved playoff footage from the past into their story about an uncut African gem is one of the most interesting plot devices in recent memory. The anxiety we feel watching Howard watch a basketball game he bet big on is chalk full of suspense, which is odd because these games already happened in real life.
It looks like The Safdie Brothers were the first step to helping Pattinson shed his Edward from Twilight typecast. Subsequently, he was cast as the next Batman. Maybe after Uncut Gems Sandler will finally shed his lowbrow comedy typecast and land a roll as, um….. Superman?
To summarize: Uncut Gems hits the mark. It IS a serious role for Sandler, and, even better, it is a seriously well crafted film.
If Punch Drunk Love is an A, Funny People is a C and Good Time is an A, then Uncut Gems also deserves an A.