Review: Uncut Gems

Directors: Josh & Benny Safdie
Screenwriters: Ronald Bronstein, Josh & Benny Safdie
Starring: Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, Julia Fox, Eric Bogosian, Lakeith Stanfield
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: Rated R for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content, and brief drug use
Release Dates: 12/25/19 (Wide Theatrical); 2/25/20 (Disc/Streaming)
Where to Watch: Netflix

Uncut Gems is unlike any movie I have ever seen or any that I will potentially see in the future — and now I know why and how it has been so divisive among filmgoers, yet so revered among critics and fellow movie snobs. Watching Uncut Gems is like having teeth pulled (or worse) for over two hours. In that sense, it is like Black Mirror, in that it can be so painful to watch that it makes you genuinely uncomfortable. And, I’m one of those crazy people who actually enjoys feeling uncomfortable when watching a TV show or movie. (In real life, not so much).

The Safdie brothers’ (Good Time) latest is overly and purposefully frenetic, replete with yelling and more f-bombs than you’d like (apparently the 7th-most in a film), featuring a bravura, committed performance from Adam Sandler. Sandler’s Howie is one of the most unlikable and unsympathetic characters you’ll ever seen on screen; and yet, you can’t take your eyes off him and you actually feel empathy when bad things happen to him (that are mostly his own fault).

If Sandler does not receive an Oscar nomination for this role, I will be extremely disappointed.  (Note: he didn’t, and I still am disappointed).  Kevin Garnett is also surprisingly good playing what is probably a faux version of himself, and so is an underused Idina Menzel (who should really be in more non-animated movies) as Howie’s cheated-on wife. Newcomer Julia Fox makes her splashy acting debut as Howie’s mistress, although her character was a bit one-note for me; I have a feeling she’s capable of more interesting roles.

Uncut Gems takes you on a wild and crazy ride, to put it mildly, and the ending left me a little disappointed. That said, the journey was exhilarating, at times funny, hectic, and out-of-this-world.

A-

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