‘Uncut Gems’ is a film which never stops, never quite lets you sit still. Every seeming relief or stop turns into a different rollercoaster. Everyone talking about this film uses the same word – anxiety. It is a consistently anxiety-producing, stomach-churning ride, which never relents in making you feel uncomfortable, but which simultaneously also engages you completely.
The Safdie Brothers, the directors and writers of this project, said they wouldn’t do this movie with any star other than Adam Sandler, and you can see why. It’s a film that uses not just his incredible acting ability (which we all admit he could have used more throughout his career), but also uniquely uses his persona to enhance the character he plays. Howard is a bit annoying, but not entirely without charm. He is childish and stupid, but he has a great energy to him, he’s always making mistakes, but he’s got that potential for one more big score. This film is Sandler’s big score. His best since 2002’s ‘Punch-Drunk Love’. Leaning into Sandler’s comedy persona lets your preconceived notions increase your appreciation of the film because you almost don’t need to meet the character, you already know who he is.
The other genius is in the filmmaking, the camera is right up in people’s faces, claustrophobic. There is a clear Altman-influence in the way the characters talk over each other, and it really helps that anxiety building and rising. The film looks amazing too, it’s energetic and vibrant, plus the world built is so interesting without it being obvious.
All in all, it’s a film that knows what it wants to be, and which uses the tools available to make it exactly that. The Safdie Brothers may be the best young directors out there right now, especially if you enjoy films where you won’t be able to sit still for an hour afterwards.