Adam Sandler embraces the hustle in Uncut Gems

An Adam Sandler movie has no right to be this good. But then again, this isn’t an ordinary Adam Sandler movie. 

“Uncut Gems” is directed by the Safdie Brothers, best known for “Good Time”, and has undeservedly been ignored this awards season by the Academy Awards.

Sandler stars as a New York jewellery dealer with massive gambling debts and an addiction to match. The main tension in this film’s plot is derived from his foils in attempting to pay back the debt he owes to his loan shark brother-in-law.

The film excels in creating tension, with sound being used to fabricate palpable anxiety whenever Sandler exits buildings onto the bustling New York jewellery district.

Mounting debts, an unfinalised divorce and the breakdown of an affair with his employee cause Sandler’s character to become increasingly stressed and anxious as the film progresses.

Few films so far have succeeded in keeping you on the edge of your seat in the way that “Uncut Gems” does.

This is all achieved with a character that isn’t sympathetic whatsoever. Despite Sandler’s character’s mistreatment of his family as his addiction deepens, the climax of his final bet at the end of the film is one of the tensest film climaxes in years.

One of the many interesting things about “Uncut Gems” is the cast actors with little or no experience. Like Fox, only Sandler and the excellent Lakeith Stanfield of “Atlanta” are well known.

In an interview on Chapo Trap House, the two brothers talked about how they incorporated as many “New York weirdos” as they could in the movie. This lends to the immersive quality of the film as it somehow puts you in the main character’s shoes despite his unusual circumstances and actions.

The film also places you at the right time excellently. It has all the hallmarks of the year 2012 when it was set, by featuring a cameo by The Weeknd as an upcoming artist playing in a night club.

Another immersive element that the film displays are the phones that copy the 2012 designs. Every detail is there to put right in the shoes of the protagonist.

Despite the film being completely snubbed by the Academy Awards, this does little but highlight the irrelevance of the awards within contemporary culture.

Although we pay attention to the Oscars and the Grammys somewhat, outside of a niche appreciation, they just don’t matter. We watch the show’s on streaming services and pay attention to YouTube reviewers.

This is neither good nor bad but it does display a problem that film industry awards need to cop on to. Many young people are not going to watch the likes of “1917” and “Ford vs Ferrari”.

To paraphrase a meme, all millennials know, is twerk, eat hot chip, watch “Uncut Gems”, and lie. That’s obviously an exaggeration, but there’s a cornel of truth there.

In the case of Uncut Gems, this is a good thing.

Peter O’Neill

Image Credit: Lucien Waugh-Daly