Adam Sandler was robbed at this year's Oscars. Never did I expect to write this sentence but as this year's nominations were read out a cinematic injustice was being performed. Sandler should have made the cut for his magnetic turn in Uncut Gems. The latest from anxiety merchants the Safdie Brothers, it is a singularly unique work, a propulsive plunge into the world of jewellery and high stakes gambling. See it - but be prepared to have your heart rate near double by the end.
Sandler is Howard Ratner, a
Indie maestros the Safdie Brothers are here painting on their largest canvas to date. After their breakout hit, Good Time, the duo's ambitions have expanded and they craft a rich world around Sandler, casting a mix of unknowns, non-actors and some well-placed seasoned professionals. Stand outs include LaKeith Stanfield (and what a run he is having since Get Out), Idina Menzel and Julia Fox. Initially they seem to be playing archetypes like the jilted wife, the mistress, the duplicitous sidekick. But as the film blossoms, they become more interesting figures, each sadder and more desperate, carrying the weight of their own personal world. Amongst the sound and fury of the craft, there are a wealth of interesting turns, fascinating threads left open. It makes Uncut Gems such a rewarding watch.
The film is also an exhausting watch. Shot with a neon gleam and edited within an inch of its life, it is a frenetic thriller, capturing a velocity rarely seen in cinema. Howard's world barely stops, its central figure seemingly always on the move. You leave the cinema drenched in sweat, a nervous wreck. Particularly after the film's audacious and harrowing finale. It's a heart-in-your-throat, gut punch sequence that is surely one of the year's best.
But really, for all the skill the Safdie Brothers exhibit, their greatest trick is to eke out that rarely-spotted thing in cinemas: a brilliant Adam Sandler performance. Sandler is such a frustrating watch usually, because when he wants to he is a very good actor. And here, he is working at a level he hasn't achieved before. He's a frustrating figure, a charming, euphoric individual who you are rooting to succeed even as he seems to make every wrong decision. The brilliance of Uncut Gems is to give Sandler the room, around the exhaustive style, to own the movie, to be its beating heart and its most provocative element. Sandler is unmistakably brilliant here and worth the cost of entry alone. You may, however, just want a swift drink and a lie down when the credits start to roll.