Uncut Gems: Film Review

I had been hearing about Uncut Gems on Twitter for months and was excited to finally know what all the fuss was about. And daaaaamn, Uncut Gems is such a stressful watch. I breathed out a sigh of relief once it was all over.

The film follows Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), who runs a jewellery store in New York City. He is up to his eyeballs in debts and is frequently hounded by debt collectors trying to get him to cough up and people asking for their jewellery back, even though he’s pawned their property for money. He thinks his luck has changed when he receives an illegal Ethiopian opal, which is going to make him rich at auction, but he stupidly decides to show it off in front of basketball star Kevin Garnett (playing himself), who has to have it as his lucky charm and won’t take no for an answer.

Sandler has become known for starring in rubbish comedies in recent years and hasn’t been well-regarded as an actor for a while but his performance in Uncut Gems should change that and re-establish him as someone who should be taken seriously. This is the best performance of his career and you’ll see him in a completely new light. Howard is not a likeable lead. He makes infuriating and stupid decisions that do not help his situation. It gave me such anxiety watching him go about his stressful, chaotic and non-stop day and I couldn’t fathom how someone would make decisions that would make his life harder rather than easier. He really doesn’t help himself!

In terms of supporting stars, I also enjoyed Julia Fox, who makes her movie acting debut here, as Howard’s girlfriend Julia, she was the light relief of the piece, Idina Menzel as his cold estranged wife Dinah, she gets a terrific bitchy moment, Lakeith Stanfield as his cool associate Demany, and sports star Garnett, who does well playing a version of himself.

Josh and Benny Safdie came onto my radar with Good Time, which also stressed me out and was a lot to take in, but Uncut Gems is on the next level. It is a loud, brash film with heaps of energy that really overwhelms the senses. I’m talking about major sensory overload. There’s so much shouting, yelling over one another, phones ringing, doors buzzing, and sometimes this all happens at the same time. My brain could not cope with Howard’s decisions and my heart was pounding as the film neared its shocking ending.

Uncut Gems will not float everybody’s boat. The Safdies have their own distinctive style and Uncut Gems sticks to it, for better or worse. I cannot call it an enjoyable experience – it is anxiety-inducing, stressful and intense – but there’s no doubt that this is an impressive piece of filmmaking. If you want to get your adrenalin pumping, Uncut Gems is for you.

In select cinemas from Friday 10th January and on Netflix from 31st January

Rating: 4/5

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