TIFF film #3 of 8
Uncut Gems is one of the most chaotic, anxiety-inducing, and downright nauseating films I’ve ever seen. And I mean that in the best way possible. It is a complete and utter sensory overload. It is relentless. Much of the dialogue is shouted, yet it still manages to compete for the foreground with the cacophonous score. It sounds like it could be insufferable. But it isn’t. It is exhilarating. Adam Sandler stars as Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner in New York City’s Diamond District, who is so deep in debt, that he’s perpetually treading water to keep out of trouble with collectors. He scams, he pawns other people’s property, and he makes exorbitant wagers on basketball games. None of his scheming seems to work out in his favour, but his luck might be about to change when a rare opal from a mine in Ethiopia arrives at his shop stuffed inside a dead fish. The opal, in his mind, is set to net him upwards of one million dollars when it sells it auction the following week, and all of his problems will be solved. Things go awry, however, when NBA star Kevin Garnett visits the shop and insists on borrowing the gem for luck in that evenings playoff game against the 76ers. What follows is one of the most entertaining and batshit crazy two hours of film you’re likely to see all year. Josh and Benny Safdie were at my screening and introduced the film. Apparently they’ve been trying to get this film made for ten years, and they talked about how everything they’ve made leading up to this, including 2017’s spectacular Good Time, served as a training ground for Uncut Gems. And it really shows. As excellent as Good Time is, I feel like this is a step even further for them. The screenplay and the direction are both pitch-perfect, with chaotic handheld camerawork complimented beautifully by Darius Khondji’s gorgeous cinematography. Adam Sandler gives what I think will go down as the greatest performance of his career, finally unseating his turn in Punch Drunk Love. When Sandler gets teamed up with a true auteur like Paul Thomas Anderson, Noah Baumbach, or in this case, the Safdie brothers, he really is a remarkably good actor. The supporting cast are all great too, including Kevin Garnett, but the two standouts for me are Lakeith Stanfield as a business partner of sorts of Sandler’s character, responsible for bringing celebrity business into the shop, and Julia Fox as his secret girlfriend for whom he rents an apartment in the city. I mentioned it earlier, but one of the true stars of this film is the score from composer Daniel Lopatin. It sets the mood early on and doesn’t let up throughout the entire two hour and ten minute runtime. I feel like Adam Sandler for best actor and Lopatin for best original score are all we can really hope for this film come awards season, but it will certainly make my personal list for a hell of a lot more. Seek this one out when it goes wide, I’m quite sure you won’t be disappointed.