The Reel Dad checks out ‘Uncut Gems’ from home
Some movies deserve to be found.
Sadly, they get lost, because so many other movies open at the same time or, just as often, these films are unique enough to be a bit more challenging to advertise.
“Uncut Gems” is not the easiest movie to watch, especially for its intense opening. But stick with it. This story - of a man so prone to exaggerate that he forgets how to recognize truth - offers a lot of insight into how some people can so strongly focus on rewriting what happens to them that they forget how to cope with what they actually face. The result is a movie that prompts us to think and will never put us to sleep. An ideal choice to discover from home.
Adam Sandler, in a role far from the comedies that made him a star, plays a man who refuses to apologize for all the lies he tells. As Howard, a diamond dealer in Manhattan, Sandler feeds his addiction to gambling, revels in the superstar customers he serves and does everything possible to avoid authentic moments with his estranged wife and family. Things are always going to get better for this man who, long ago, decided the rule book of life didn’t apply to him. Howard rushes through his harried day assuming that everyone he encounters must bend for what he needs, that all the people he meets should understand why his plight is so unique. And he never realizes just how ordinary he actually is.
Such a character study works on film when everything around that central figure enhances our understanding of what goes on in one complicated mind. Directors Joe and Benny Safdie - who wrote the film along with Ronald Bronstein - surround Sandler with so much rich texture that every moment in the film helps us better understand how and why this well-intentioned man could end up in so much trouble. Never apologizing for any of Howard’s behavior, the film makers make sure that we fully grasp every ripple of every step this man can take. Whether studying how he handles those who accuse, or denies when confronted by those he loves, the Safdies always make sure we see the generosity that Howard believes he brings to every relationship even as they reveal, in detail, the damage he creates. And they give the film a delicious, grainy feel that takes us back to the 1970s when legendary director Sidney Lumet also made New York a character in “Dog Day Afternoon,” a similar take on a troubled soul.
Of course, a film like “Uncut Gems” demands a larger-than-life star performance. Sandler exceeds the requirements of the role with a precious portrayal of a man who lives without constraints, carefully shading each nuance to help us understand the reasons for every step. That the performance was overlooked by Oscar may have as much to do with reactions to the film as with assessments of the actor.
Yes, “Uncut Gems” can be a challenging film. But it’s worth sticking through to learn so much about a man so complicated.
Content: High. No matter how you may react to the central character, the film offers a lot of insight into the behavior of someone who lives in denial.
Entertainment: High. While the film can be difficult to watch at times - because of the lead character’s intensity - it does ultimately entertain. But the first 30 minutes are tough. And it’s not for the whole family.
Message: High. While the film entertains, it has a lot to say about what may create compulsive behavior.
Relevance: High. Any opportunity to explore such an interesting character is always relevant.
Opportunity for Dialogue: High. Even though the movie focuses on negative behavior, it will give the adults in your house a lot to talk about.
“Uncut Gems” is rated R for “pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use.” The film runs 2 hours, 15 minutes, and is available on streaming platforms and on demand.