Toronto 2019: Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems. Courtesy of TIFF.

Saturday Night Live veteran comedian Adam Sandler delivers an Oscar-worthy performance in recently premiered crime thriller Uncut Gems.

Every now and then, we get a phenomenal performance from Adam Sandler.  Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, Funny People, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), and Uncut Gems feature such performances.  We get a career-best in the film.  It helps that he’s able to get out of his comfort zone.  He’s not in a film being written by the traditional writers that we’re so used to seeing.

Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a jeweler working in New York City.  Ratner does have his flaws but this goes without saying.  However, Ratner has some issues with money management.  In this case, he likes to bet big on sporting events.  Yet he must do so while fulfilling both work and family obligations.  It’s not always easy and sometimes, he’ll stay at the apartment in the city.  Things change when an uncut opal gem finally arrives from the Welo Mines of Ethiopia.  But just as soon as he plans to auction it off for over $1 million, Boston Celtics legend Kevin Garnett (himself) arrives in his shop during a break in the action from the 2012 NBA Playoffs.  Let’s just say that Ratner shows KG the gem and he starts to obsess over it.

The whole subplot involving Kevin Garnett is fascinating.  At some point, I started to wonder if the film would ever return to some particular plot points.  I won’t say what they are but for a while, it was looking like a plot hole or two.  Sure enough, the film does its thing and not a moment too soon.  But speaking of basketball, there’s a nice reference to Ossie Schectman.  He scored the first basket in basketball.  Similarly, I highly recommend checking out The First Basket: The Greatest Jewish Basketball Documentary Ever.  Anyway, I digress.  It was just nice to revisit the Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers series in 2012.

The Safdie brothers do a splendid job in directing the film.  They certainly know their craft.  My only regret is that they did get on my radar until Good Time in 2017.  Get familiar with their filmography going into the film.  It’s kind of important.

Much like Robert Pattinson did in Good Time, Adam Sandler delivers the performance of his life in Uncut Gems.

DIRECTORS:  Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie
SCREENWRITERS:  Ronald Bronstein & Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie
CAST:  Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Erin Bogosian, Judd Hirsch, Keith Williams Richards, Mike Francesa, Jonathan Aranbayev, Noa Fisher, Abel Tesfaye

Uncut Gems holds its international premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program.  A24 will release the film on December 13, 2019. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.