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Arts + Life

Uncut Gems

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Julieta Cervantes/Courtesy of A24
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Adam Sandler plays jeweler Howard Ratner in the film <em>Uncut Gems</em>. The score is as shiny and cosmic as Ratner's life is messy and frantic.

Performance of a lifetime for comedian Adam Sandler.

“Jews and colon cancer. What’s up with that? I thought we were the chosen people.” Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler)

The buzz about Uncut Gems is true: It’s arguably Adam Sandler’s finest performance, in which he plays a risk-taking, fast-talking New York Jewish jeweler. His performance is so manic and heart-rending, so over-the-top energetic and reckless, that he out-Pacino’s Pacino. Think of Dog Day Afternoon and Scarface for starters.

Then mix in Tarantino and Scorsese, and you can guess the director-brothers Benny and Josh Safdie have been influenced by the artists above. Sandler rules the film, careening from one scheme to another as he finances his life and sets up a big take for an uncut opal diamond, plucked from the dangerous and deadly mines of Ethiopia.

To the host of hoods and goons peopling his underworld add NBA icon Kevin Garnett, charming and imposing, who is interested in owning the gem. Despite the ugly suitors for the rock and Howard’s debt-ridden assets, sweet girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox) loves him, making the case for his warmth underneath the rabid exterior of bets and cons.

Martin Scorsese’s attachment to the project and the Safdie’s fine previous gangsterish Good Time guarantee a rocky and sometimes funny low life. Uncut Gems is not only one of the best films of the year, but it is the same for Sandler’s performance. It’s as fast-paced a tragi-comic thriller as you will see any year, but most of all it’s warming to see a former comedian become one of our best actors.

“This is me! This is how *I* win.” Howard
Uncut Gems

Grade: A-

Directors: Benny Safdie (Good Time), Josh Safdie (Good Time)

Screenplay: Ronald Bronstein (Good Time), et al.

Cast: Adam Sandler (Happy Gilmore), Julia Fox (PVT Chat)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2h 15m

By: John DeSando
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics and podcasts Back Talk and Double Take. Contact him at JohnDeSando52@gmail.com