Available on: Netflix
Making more analysis type reviews has been something I want to scatter around this page so I can discuss my favorite movies and I guess I’ll be starting with “Uncut Gems” since it was recently released on Netflix. Of course a good amount of this will be my opinion and I understand if people don’t enjoy this movie as much as I do or maybe people will enjoy it even more.
“Uncut Gems” is a film directed by the Safdie Brothers, the people behind “Good Time”(which is also a huge recommend from me). The tone of the two films is very similar but I’ll be getting into that later into the review. This film is centered around Howard Ratner, a sketchy jewelry store owner who is having to deal with the constant consequences of his gambling addiction. It’s an extremely fast-paced, suspenseful thriller and it will keep the viewer wanting to rip their hair out. Of course not everyone wants to watch a movie like that but if it interests you I would say give it a watch before reading the rest of the review.
SPOILERS START HERE BTW
So one of the biggest things I love about a Safdie Brother’s film is the suspensful/anxiety inducing tone it presents. Other movies can present suspense with overplayed tools like the cliche violin score, or long pauses, or overdone editing techniques (shaky cam,quick cuts, etc.), but this film takes suspense and anxiety to a whole new level. Although this movie includes a lot of quick cuts, it follows through with them perfectly. Typically when other movies use quick cuts, they are used to hide flaws such as action scenes not looking very convincing or lighting problems or even because the editor just has a million takes of a shot and decides to use every single one. In this movie, they are used to present a certain tone. For example, when Howard is having a conversation with the majority of the characters in this movie the viewer can often see Howard giving the least amount of attention to the person talking and only focusing on a separate matter. Whether it be his wife or long time employee or even a mob of thugs, he finds a way to make it feel like they are the priority to him. The cuts portray this by constantly focusing on Howard’s actions while cutting back to the other person for just a moment then immediately going back to Howard. In a way it’s showing the viewer where Howard’s attention constantly lies. Another way this film presents the constant anxious tone is by the many close-up shots. You will mostly get a good look at the setting then the shot will focus in on the characters and their expressions. In fact the camera gets so close to the point where you can even see Adam Sandler’s pores a lot of the time. This is a difficult way to film because the entire tone is decided on how well these actors can present the correct emotions. Sometimes it might seem like Howard is very confident with his words but every now and then you can see a little bit of his panic be demonstrated in his eyes or his facial expressions. Little things like this help a film out so much because it gives depth to a character without needing to write a bunch of exposition.
As most people know, Adam Sandler has never really been known for his stellar acting skills. However, I’ve always been a fan of Adam Sandler. Whether it be in his garbage movies that were probably just vacations for him or his better movies like “Punch, Drunk, Love” or “Click”, I have always found Adam Sandler to be oddly charismatic and this was the perfect role for him to play. The thing about sketchy jewelry store owners is that they need to actually make business somehow. They need to be clever, they need to have that charisma, they need to be confident and Adam Sandler did exactly that in one of his best performances ever. The way he communicated with characters showed how manipulative and persuasive he was and his dialogue delivery was convincing. And even though he was a manipulative sociopath, Sandler made me still care about this character and worry about him. The side characters did a pretty good job as well but this movie was definitely carried pretty hard by Adam Sandler. (Kevin Garnett also didn’t do a bad job surprisingly)
I mentioned before how the tone is one of my favorite things about this movie and the score heavily plays a huge part in that. This movie could have easily used a stereotypical action movie score where everything is just loud with the big inception type bass thing going on but once again this movie takes it one step further. It has this synth like score that keeps the movie flowing perfectly. There are moments when it even reminds me of “Hotline Miami”, a very fast paced game that is well complimented by a great synth score. With synth scores being over saturated in almost every new “hip” show/movie, it is nice to see it being used properly in this film and not just shoe horned in to please the nostalgic 80’s audience.
Themes: Addiction, Greed, and Delusions
I’ve only watched this movie a couple times so I might miss a few themes or skim over them. The most obvious one being addiction. Every character in this movie has an unhealthy addiction. I’ll start with our main character Howard and his awful gambling addiction. Of course this isn’t his only addiction. Howard is constantly attracted to riches and the adrenaline that he receives to acquiring them. This is why no matter how many outs to his situation he finds, he will continue to be lured to try to chase the money. Along with Howard being addicted to riches, other characters seem to be addicted to him as well. In a way the opal represents Howard and the movie even goes as far as to start off with a shot of the inside of Howard which looks strangely familiar to how the close up of the opal looks. The inside of the opal lures people in and gives a certain hypnotic effect to people, similar to how many characters seem to be hypnotized by Howard’s charm. His wife, who realistically has no reason to be with him and can’t even stand him, is tricked into giving him another opportunity and given the relationship that these two have with each other it doesn’t seem to be the first time this has happened. His mistress, who is also this very attractive woman, has so much going for her to the point where she doesn’t need Howard but is also hooked into Howard’s words. Even his employees seem to have an unhealthy connection to him regardless of the way he treats them. He manipulates everyone into thinking that they aren’t enough. Notice how throughout the movie the people that he treats like garbage have to insist that they can do so much more. His salesmen are always telling him that they could do better business at other locations, his wife goes all out to show him that she’s still very gorgeous for her age, his mistress also insists that she has more to offer and that she can get work with famous people. However, they always go back. He manipulates people into making them feel like they need to be acknowledged by him. Going back to Howard’s addiction, it seems like he also has a need to constantly have people. In a way the people are also part of his collection. There are parts of the movie where he feels like he’s actually about to lose someone and he finds a way to get them back. I’m not sure if this is also considered an addiction but it goes along with his greedy personality. Not only does he need an attractive wife, he has to keep the mistress as well even though he had an opportunity to fix his marriage by dropping her. He could have fixed his debts and been a lot more relaxed with his work and even made a good sum of money from the opal but he thirst for more money took over him. It is also stated that he had used his previous earnings on a lot of personal purchases which adds on to the fact that he would rather ignore his problems and keep bettering his life. A lot of the things stated above could even be seen in Kevin Garnett. The opal has a grasp over Kevin and it causes him to act irrationally. He lets himself get talked down to by Howard, who ended up manipulating just like the others. He went out of his way to pay tons of money just for the delusion that the rock could somehow make him play better. In a way he was also trying to escape his problems by only adding on to them and in the end he ended up losing more than he gained. So what drives all of these people to continue their addictive and problematic tendencies? Their delusions. When people gamble they do it with the delusion that maybe one day they’ll hit it big. When people try to work out a broken marriage, it’s usually their delusions that are driving them to continue and not logic. When people think that the reason they are doing better in life is because of a certain object, they creating this delusion that they need this object to do better. It can be a rock or a person or even a fortune cookie. Anyways, you guys can see what I mean.
Themes: A Release
Throughout the film you notice that Howard actually finds multiple ways out of his problems. A lot of them I have already listed below and if you’ve watched the movie you would realize that he didn’t take a single one of those ways out. At the end of the movie we finally get to see Howard get his release from all his problems but not in the way you might think. Howard loses his life and as he lays on the floor dead, he smiles. Could it be because he had just finished winning all of that money and will finally be free of debt? Or was it really because he finally gets to rest from this greed and addiction taking over his life? In a way the viewer also finally gets to rest from watching him make bad decision after bad decision making it also a release for the audience. We will never know if Howard was truly going to learn his lesson after getting the money but we can assume that he would have found another way to continue to dig the hole. Which makes this a perfect and unexpected ending.
Normally I would just make this into a cons section but I didn’t really have too much to complain about this movie besides just minor things. Even though Adam Sandler did an excellent job, I can’t help but think that he might have requested models to be the women that are all over him. It takes me out of the movie a bit when this aged Adam Sandler is somehow getting these very attractive woman to go back to him. As I mentioned before, it does align with the themes of the movie and the way his character is but it still looks silly at times. Come on, a young model looking girl choosing Adam Sandler over the Weekend… sure man. I would also say that during my first watching, the movie seemed to drag on quite a bit. I would say that was more because I didn’t know where it was going at first because watching it a second time seemed to go by a lot faster. So not really a gripe with the movie. I think that’s about it? The wife actor could have been a lot more convincing but she still played her role.
My original rating for this movie was a 7, but after re-watching it I can easily say it’s at least an 8. Maybe a 9? Adam Sandler did a great job, the movie has a lot of rewatchability, the music was great, the themes were very on point, and the writing and plot were amazing. The Safdie brothers have once again brought out another great movie and I can’t wait to see their next project. Also watch “Good Time” it’s great!
My Rating: 8/10