Uncut Gems moves away from standing as a character piece, toward becoming a fully explored view into the natural instincts of those persuaded by greed and jealousy
Since 2017, through only two feature films, the Safdie Brothers have proven how exquisitely powerful their feature films will be for some time to come. Uncut Gems, a piece of unrelenting, tense, and undeniably stressful cinema, stems from the sale of a somewhat unique gem, but the way it’s filmed, written and managed makes it feel incredibly important, and for a film to do that, with Adam Sandler at the helm, is magnificently brilliant.
In a downtown New York jewelry store, proprietor Russell (Adam Sandler) is a man who seems to owe everyone money. Constantly hounded from every angle, Russell spends most of his time swindling others, to pay back those he already owes. When a unique Ethiopian gem falls into his possession, Russell is sure he can sell it for $1 million, passing on offers to part with it way before the auction listing starts.
Uncut Gems’ most notable aspect is the career performance from Adam Sandler. His irritating but fascinating Russel is far unlike anything he has done before, gifting the film its central character, in the most unlikable of lights. However, through his determination to make money and slip away from those chasing him, its tough not to root for him, especially in his darker times. Pair that with some wonderfully performed side roles, including that of complete newcomer Julia Fox, and Uncut Gems moves away from standing as a character piece, toward becoming a fully explored view into the natural instincts of those persuaded by greed and jealousy, and just how dangerous such emotions can be.
The way the story explores the nature of a corrupt and often desperate character is beautifully put together, contrasting the tense nature of an unpredictable and engaging story.
Uncut Gems, compared to the Safdie’s previous work, possesses an incredible marked upturn in the development of its story. Sandler’s character is no less the focus than Robert Pattison’s in 2017’s Good Time, but the development of the story around him, and the claustrophobia that comes with Russell’s jewelry store makes for a real difference. It’s tough to find areas of the film where clear changes could have been made to enhance its dramatics. It isn’t a perfect film, but it’s stylistically spot on.
The piece is one of the rare occasions where a film is simultaneously an excellent character piece, and a stunningly developed story, offering true tension and true uniqueness. The production value and choices made are exquisite, only opening questions as to what the Safdie’s will turn to next, and how can it top a brilliant feature like Uncut Gems.