“You’re the most annoying person I’ve ever known.”
Coming off 2017s Good Time, Benny and Josh Safdie are back with another insane cinematic experience. Uncut Gems tells the story of Howard Ratner, a jewelry owner who is known to be on the losing end of both bad business deals, and outrageous sports bets. But when Howard gets a black opal from Ethiopia, filled with mysterious gems, Howard’s life is turned upside down. Howard must fight the ongoing situation of the opal, while also keeping those people who want him dead, at arm’s length. With amazing reviews coming from various festivals and overall positive audience viewings, the anticipation of watching Uncut Gems was at an all-time high. However, Sandler’s team up with the Safdie Brothers is a bit of a mess.
Yes…this is going to be a controversial review, as I know so many of you have thoroughly enjoyed Uncut Gems. For me, the film is a bit of a letdown. Sandler’s, Howard character is overtly unlikeable. Now, before everyone comes at me with a, “he’s supposed to be unlikeable” tirade, I have enjoyed many repulsive characters or villains. I loved Joffrey from Game of Thrones. But with Howard’s character, there’s nothing there that makes him compelling, even with his outrageous antics. It’s just Howard making one bad decision after another, as you scream at your television, “what are you doing?!” A lot of Howard’s troubles come from an opal he buys after watching a documentary on, what he so eloquently calls, black Jews. When he receives it, Kevin Garnett (yes the basketball player) wants the opal, but Howard insists it’s not for sale. Garnett’s obsession for the opal reaches epic proportions when he believes the opal has some magical powers that will bring him luck. It sounds intriguing enough, right? The plot of the story is there, but the overall film cannot bring it all together.
The direction from the Safdie Brothers continues to push the envelope. Coming off a great film such as Good Time, it’s easy to get caught in the whirlwind of the attention. But not the Safdie Brothers. They continue to fully embrace their viewer, and transport you right into the story, which is sad because of the lack of communication between them and the rest of the production is lost. What the film suffers from most is the script. Like I said, the plot is there, but the execution feels rushed, and leaves Howard with no type of resolution, or deeper meaning within the film. In the end, Howard’s story feels pointless, as do the other characters.
I warned you this review would be controversial. I know I’m ruffling a bunch of feathers, because I can see why so many enjoy Uncut Gems. However, I can’t bring myself to like the film. Maybe I’m mistaken, or haven’t obtained the true meaning of the film. I hope I can appreciate this film later down the road. But as of right now, Uncut Gems is full of too many speed bumps to make this a truly great film.
Directed by: Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie
Starring: Adam Sandler, LaKeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, and Idina Menzel