I don’t like to drive- Wait, let me rephrase that. I don’t like driving my car. It needs the coolant changed, a new alternator, and it makes funny sounds every now and then (really, these sounds get me laughing every time). Nevertheless, on the Sunday of December fifteenth I got into my 1999 Beetle and drove to LA, hoping that it wouldn’t explode. Why? Because Adam Sandler and the Safdie Brothers were doing a Q&A for their new movie, Uncut Gems. Now, I prefer just watching Q&As online and not really driving out to go see them live. But I just really wanted to see this movie. Sure, I could’ve waited till Christmas day to see it closer to where I live, but fuck that. I wanted to see this as soon as possible. I fell in love with the Safdie Brothers after I saw Good Time. Adam Sandler is also a very capable actor depending on the role. I’m not a fan of many of his movies, I think he has been in three movies that I actually like, but I have a huge amount of respect for him. I might not like a lot of what he does, but it’s clear that he loves doing it and loves the people he’s doing it with. How can you not respect that? Also, this movie looked really good. Well, I made it back from LA and my car didn’t explode until I got it in the garage and I can say that Uncut Gems is excellent.
The film follows a jewish jeweler named Howard on his journey to paying off debts and making quick money in some of the most ridiculous ways possible.
What’s so wonderful about this movie is how it’s able to do what I say some movies shouldn’t do. There are many times in movies or on TV shows where I’ll feel like the filmmakers rely too much on the use of music to tell us how to feel. It seems like they get scared during post that they weren’t able to convey the correct emotions while filming, so they want to move over to the music to tell us how we should feel. The thing is silence can be far more powerful if used properly. But Uncut Gems says, “Fuck having a silence. We won’t stop with all this noise.” The movie doesn’t really have that much music, it’s really just a collection of sounds that are meant to make you feel uneasy. Then the way that the movie is cut together makes it feel like there is never a moment in this movie for it to breath. This causes the movie to be like a never ending panic attack. This then also gives us a huge adrenaline rush, making this one of the most exciting of the year.
There are a lot of things working in this film. The writing, the sound, and the direction. But it doesn’t feel like this movie wouldn’t have worked the way it does without Adam Sandler. The movie is so focused around his character, after the opening scene if feels like the camera doesn’t leave him for more than a minute at a time. Sandler’s character, Howard, feels like it’s the only one that matters in the film, which is very likely meant to be a reflection of how Howard views his world. I also loved Howard, but also I didn’t. He’s a piece of shit. He acts selfishly and has no sense of responsibility. Let’s also be honest, he is really gross looking in this film. Yet I loved watching him be a piece of shit. This is because Adam Sandler does such a good job playing the character. He can bring a lot of humor to this character. It’s strange, because I know a lot of the humor is intentional because of the way that the movie cuts it all together. But it feels like a lot of it would’ve fallen flat and come across as unintentional if it wasn’t Adam Sandler performing. During the Q&A after the film the directors seemed to indicate that they had been trying to do the film for a really long time with Adam Sandler in mind. I do recall hearing something about Jonah Hill for the role at one point, but they indicated that they had tried to get Sandler for the role years ago and when they didn’t hear back the project went dormant until after the directors worked on Good Time. I commend these filmmakers for trying to stick it out for the one actor they thought would tie the movie together. While Jonah Hill does fine work, I have a hard time seeing anybody but Adam Sandler in this role. It’s a great performance and it brings the entire movie together.
As for the film’s faults, I really don’t feel like it has that many. The main thing that comes to mind is that the movie can hint towards some backstory for other characters but it won’t really explore it. It’s a shame because some of them can be interesting, but I would argue that this feels like a movie that needs to be following the main character and to cut away from that would destroy the adrenaline drive that the movie wants to give you. It may be an issue for some, but it’s necessary for what the movie wants to do.
I love this movie. But I do have to ask if the general audience will. Probably not. This is a very well put together movie with a specific audience in mind. It’s lead character has no redeeming qualities and it’s not like the supporting cast is that much better. Movies that follow characters like this typically don’t have that wide of an appeal. If you are wondering if this movie is for you I would take the trailer at face value. It doesn’t hint towards any sort of redeeming arc and if you are okay with the style of the trailer, the movie will be right for you. If you are at all unsure, chances are that the movie isn’t for you. If it isn’t, there is no shame in that. There’s something else out there for you to watch.
As for me, I love this movie. It falls into this category of films that I’ve been calling “anxiety induced thrill rides” and I love it. I can’t wait to see it again and to see what the Safdie Brothers and Sandler do next.