‘Uncut Gems’ is a slice of life film about Howard Ratner, played by Adam Sandler, a Jewish jeweller who can never settle on one win, and always needs to double his money, and make more and more.
This film feels wholly unfocused, and meandering, with so many different aspects of Howard Ratner’s life on show, many times in the same scene. This leads to the biggest problem with the film, the pacing, everything feels like it is going a million miles an hour with no set destination. When we are first introduced to Howard, there are more than 5 people talking, shouting and screaming over each other, and it’s mixed very poorly. The audience hasn’t been properly introduced to the characters or story so we don’t know which of the people talking we should be listening to, instead it all blurs together in this auxiliary white noise.
The score is hauntingly beautiful and fitting, it really adds to the authentic feel of the film, and enhances the allure of these fantastic gemstones that certain characters are so enamored by. The only problem with the score is whenever looks into the black opal, the “Uncut Gem” of the title, the use of glittery music is a little too on the nose and combined with some poorly executed visuals, make those scenes feel like bad 80’s fantasy.
Adam Sandler is fantastic as the lead, he’s very believable, and while there are hints of a comedic character within Howard Ratner, it’s not the comedy style that Sandler usually plays. Howard is a more believable and nuanced character with a multi-faceted personality which Sandler delivers on every front with. This is the best Adam Sandler performance since ‘Punch-Drunk Love (2002)’, though the impressive thing is that Howard is a much different character than what Sandler played 17 years earlier and really shows just how good of an actor he can be.
The story is very slice of life but it feels as though the screenwriters wanted to squeeze too much into this slice and overburdened the film with way too many plot points, making it feel bloated and just a mess of a film. The editing jumps from one story to another to another, again with the break-neck pacing so the film is never slow or boring, but due to the bloated mess of a script, the film is never captivating and only rarely shows glimmers of excitement.
The film is shot adequately, nothing really standout, apart from the use of black light in a scene at a club, it added a nice effect to the scene, making it pop with luminescent colours. Besides that there was nothing too impressive, not bad by any means but very safe and bland, which seems to compliment the film as a whole. There are a few scenes with the black opal gem and there is some risk taken there with the shots but it absolutely doesn’t pay off, it ends up making the scene feel tacky and low-budget.
As much as the script feels bloated, there is a particular scene with Howard and Kevin Garnett, where Sandler is giving this brilliant monologue describing his character, what drives him, etc. and it is phenomenal. The pitch perfect delivery from Sandler, it’s shot very nicely and it’s interwoven with the reaction of Garnett perfectly. If the whole film had been like this scene, this film would have gone down as one of the best in the last decade, instead this film is a bloated carcass that will wash up on the beach of 2019 with all the other garbage.