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The frantic, artistically-accomplished chaos of ‘Uncut Gems’

The frantic, artistically-accomplished chaos of Uncut Gems

“Uncut Gems” was one of Adam Sandler’s more serious roles, breaking from his tradition of comedic films for something more on the thriller side. I will say this: He wasn’t bad as the gambling addict jewel salesman Howard. If anything with this role, Sandler proves that he has an emotional range that could’ve been displayed a lot sooner, instead of turning out the slew of mostly forgettable comedy movies that he’s churned out the past few years.  

That said, by the end of the movie, I wasn’t very sad to see my time with Howard as a main character come to the end. I kept finding myself in a spot where I would actively be disliking him.  

To be fair, this isn’t a movie where the characters are really there for you to like them. The pacing doesn’t allow the viewer to do much other than strap in and enjoy (or not enjoy) the ride. For what it’s worth, I fully enjoyed Kevin Garnett playing himself, and of course, I’ll always be fond of any role Idina Menzel is in, even if she’s mostly absent from the film—though Menzel’s scenes as Howard’s almost-but-not-quite ex-wife Dinah were the most memorable to me.  

But then, how could I focus on all of that when it seemed every few seconds someone in the background was talking, yelling or otherwise echoing? This was most evident early on in the film, but then, perhaps I simply grew used to it, the way one would get used to a white noise machine. The noise seemed so egregious that I’m wondering if the copy I watched had been glitched in some way. The moments of quiet we got were almost too brief to be a relief, only just giving my brain the time to catch up to what had been going on. And moments of quiet were very slim pickings within the two-hour movie. 

To be fair, this same sense of busyness is also carried over in the camera shots and pacing of the film. There were some moments where all I knew was Howard running, presumably from the debt collectors who are more than willing to shake him down or beat him up to get him to pay off his debts. Maybe that’s all I needed to know.  

In terms of plot, there isn’t a whole lot—or if there is, it’s lost within the rampaging pace that was set. Howard needs to win big if he wants to pay debt collectors off, and yet he keeps on digging himself deeper into the hole. The black opal that lies at the heart of the movie, while giving some pretty cool visual effects, is both Howard’s savior and oppressor as he tries to come up with some way to escape his large amounts of debt with his life still intact. Whether or not the end is satisfying, well, I suppose it depends on how fond you become of Howard.    

This was the first film by the Safdies that I have watched and for what it’s worth, I think I might check out another one of their films. From an artistic standpoint, it was a good watch. But for someone who actually likes to get attached to characters and enjoys being able to understand what’s happening on screen without feeling the need to pause and take a moment, well, onto the next.  

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