TIFF 2019: ‘Uncut Gems’ Is Propulsive Filmmaking With A Vibrant Adam Sandler Performance

Uncut Gems is Adam Sandler at his scheming best. Utilizing the decades he’s parlayed embodying vented up man-children, here he’s successfully channelled those manic impulses into a nuanced, deal-making Manhattan jeweller named Howard Ratner.

However, give credit where credit is due. At the heart of this sprawling urban goose chase is the film’s dynamic directing duo, New York filmmaker’s Josh and Ben Safdie (i.e. The Safdie Brothers) who steer Sandler to depths rarely charted before or since.

Much like his unexpected dramatic turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love 16 years ago, Sandler plays Uncut Gems’ anti-hero as a desperate and fidgety businessman, while simultaneously offering up a through line of constant humour – nervous or otherwise.

As a New York jeweller constantly on the look for his next big score, his latest prized possession rests in the monetary value of a glistening imported opal from the mines of Ethiopia. When he unveils the mysterious gem to NBA player Kevin Garnett (playing himself in a wonderful outing), the Boston Celtics legend insists on owning it, setting off a chain-reaction of unpredictable events that hurdle Howard into the dark underbelly of the Big Apple.

At 135 minutes, viewers are tossed headlong into a dizzying cast of characters from Howard’s brother-in-law crime boss Arno (Eric Bogosian), suffering wife (Idina Menzel) to assorted diamond district lowlifes, the panic attack of a film culminates in a finals basketball game that leaves one on edge of their seat. Simply put, Uncut Gems grabs you and doesn’t let go.

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Myles Herod

Myles Herod

Traveller, image maker, pop-culture seeker, storyteller, a guy you want around when things go south. Tastes range from Kubrick to Krautrock, Wu-Tang to Wiseau. Currently resides in Toronto, Canada.
Myles Herod