Did you know that if you watch a feature length movie that constantly gets your adrenaline pumping, you can burn almost 120 calories, which is the equivalent of taking a brisk 30-minute walk?
So, say it’s been raining all day and you still need to burn those extra calories. Should I just crank out some pushups or hop on the treadmill?
No. Are you crazy? Why would you even suggest that?
Fear not, for I have a movie for you that will raise your blood pressure and get your heart pumping without the need for a single sit-up. Take your ass to the couch, do a 90-degree squat into your seat, and buckle up.
Uncut Gems is a dirty, grimy, sparkling piece of work from experienced gut-punchers The Safdie Brothers. Their previous film, Good Time, was an adrenaline-fueled story that never let you feel at rest, even in the slower parts of the film. For their next movie, I can only imagine the brothers sought to double up on the energy of Good Time, and I’d be lying if I said they hadn’t succeeded.
Uncut Gems follows Howard Ratner, a New York jeweler with a dismantling gambling addiction. Through various misfortunes played out before and during the events of the film, Howard has fallen in deep with the wrong people that aggressively want their money back. Over the course of the film Howard finds himself with several opportunities to right the wrongs he’s committed but finds himself falling deeper and deeper into the grave he continuously digs for himself.
Our aggravating protagonist is played by divisive funnyman Adam Sandler. My personal feelings on Sandler before this movie were mixed. He has some genuine classic comedies under his belt, but his work from the past decade became too repetitive and juvenile for my taste. Despite this, Sandler has still been able to prove himself as a competent actor outside of comedy. Punch Drunk Love showed a side of Mr. Sandler the world has never seen before. He has the chops. We know this now, but it’s rare to see him attempt anything out of his usual comfort zone. Luckily for us, his performance in Uncut Gems pulls out the very best in himself while he portrays one of the “worst” protagonists in film history.
Howard is a liar, a cheat and a self-centered jackass. He’s shown to neglect and negatively affect his family so much that his wife is asking for a divorce. He’s in so much dept that I think the number is undefinable at points. He’s not a good guy, but a protagonist doesn’t have to be. The protagonist doesn’t always have to be this hero you root for, it just needs to be someone who’s story is worth following. Howard’s journey is incredibly enthralling, giving a glimpse at a very real case of gambling addiction. You’ll find yourself yelling at him in your head most of the time, eventually coming to the conclusion that you’re not watching because you think it’ll get better for him. It can only get worse.
Sandler completely disappears in this role. For most of the movie and on several re-watches, all I see is Howard. This is due in part to not just Sandler’s performance, but the world of characters around him. Lakeith Stanfield plays Damany, Howard’s associate that brings possible clientele to Howard’s jewelry store. I’ve been a big fan of Stanfield since seeing him in Sorry to Bother You, and he’s gone on to tremendous success since then. His role puts him in a revolving door of allegiance to Howie, being for and against his associate depending on how the scenario affects him. Real life basketball player Kevin Garnet plays himself in a big display of talent for me. Never once did I feel as if he didn’t belong amongst the bigger players of the film. The same can be said for Julia Fox, who plays Howard’s employee and mistress Julia. Despite this being her feature film debut, she blends so well with the world around her that you never really see her as an “actor”, but an actual person. The same can be said for most of the minor characters as well, as the Safdies went out of their way to cast no-names and non-actors in some of the smaller roles to give the film a more authentic feel.
The world of Uncut Gems, seen mainly through the New York Diamond District, is loud, muddled and peppered with every swear word imaginable. The dialogue on display is both overwhelming and mesmerizing. People are talking and shouting over one another constantly, and it can be difficult to hear exactly what is being said. However, the energy of the interactions is easily distinguishable, which is a sign of true talent of the directors’ end. The manic energy of the film is also heightened by its soundtrack. The mixes of electronica and Gregorian chants may seem odd at first, but they fit right at home in a wonderfully weird juxtaposition with the grainy visuals.
As I was getting at before, the film barely gives you a moment to breath. The intensity continuously climbs into a crescendo of craziness that never feels too out of left field. The events that transpire are so over the top and sometimes goofy, yet they feel so grounded in reality that it almost feels nightmarish. It seems that every decision Howard makes is just shortening the fuse of an already lit powder keg, culminating in a sweat inducing, ass clenching climax that keeps you guessing how it all will end.
The Safdie Brothers have more than outdone themselves with this film. Uncut Gems shows a natural progression in their style of filmmaking that will only continue to get better in the years to come. The fact that this film got nothing at the major award shows will forever be a blot on the academy’s reputation (like they have any room for more blots). I never thought I would have found myself behind an Adam Sandler Oscar campaign, but damn did he blow me away. My only hope is that he’ll take what he’s learned from this project and apply it to his work in the future.
Can’t wait for Grown Ups 3.
Howard’s Fish Tank
For this film, I decided to create a modified fishbowl drink called Howard’s Fish Tank. The inspiration for this came from a scene where Demany pours a dark red energy drink into Howard’s fish tank. This may seem like a minuscule scene, but it directly leads into the climax as everything around Howard begins to fall apart. Additionally, like the film, fishbowls are regarded as high energy drinks with a lot going on in them. The addition of the candy is sure to get the blood pumping and the heart racing.
- 1 oz vodka
- 1 oz coconut rum
- 1 oz peach schnapps
- 1 oz cherry vodka
- 1 oz lemon lime soda
- 1 oz Grenadine
- Swedish Fish
- Combine alcohol into shaker or mixing glass with ice.
- Shake/mix thoroughly.
- Add nerds to rounded glass (such as a stemless wine glass) to your liking.
- Pour mixture into glass.
- Add Swedish fish to your liking.