On The Edge

Uncut Gems
Stars: Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, Julia Fox, Lakeith Stanfield, Eric Bogosian, Kevin Garnett, Judd Hirsch and Paloma Eisesser
Directors: Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie
Scriptwriters: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie
Composer: Daniel Lopatin
Cinematography: Darius Khondji
A24 and Netflix
Rating: R for profanity, violence and themed material concerning gambling
Running Length: 134 Minutes 

There are people whose entire existence is based on gambling and the rush of getting a win. Such is the life of Howard Ratner (played by Adam Sandler), who can’t go through a day without gambling about material things and even life. If he promises something, you know it won’t happen if that chance to gamble comes along. “Uncut Gems” is such a film and we follow Howard Ratner as, during a week, he goes after a certain gem and the price to be paid. 

Adam Sandler is known for such films as “Murder Mystery” and  the voice of Count Dracula in the "Hotel Transylvania" films.  As a comic, his films make money, but sometimes, not sense.  The character of Howard Ratner, a Jewish jewelry store owner, is a chance for Sandler to act in depth in a dramatic role and he does well.  “Uncut Gems” is his film, and though the cast has their moments to shine, it is Sandler’s all the way.  The film begins in a gem mine in Africa, with the discovery of a large and rare black opal. Ratner purchases this gem, and the transaction takes over a year.  Finally, it comes to America and then it assessed at over a million dollars.  With that figure in mine, Ratner goes after buyers that lead into borrowing that leads into loan sharks that leads into problems with his wife at home and with his apartment and another girl, and eventually into basketball games and gambling there. It may take a notebook to keep track of the monetary twists and turns in “Uncut Gems,” and the number of times Ratner encounters thugs for payback. The words “trunk of car” come to mind.  Profanity is profuse and it may be hard for the audience to hear meaningful dialogue when there are curse words curled around each sentence. It is a gamble for the audience---guess what you think is happening. 

Sandler’s gift for quips goes along with his role of a person used to talking or bargaining his way out of any situation.  With a slumped posture and neutral look, he looks harmless, but the mind wheels are turning.  His facial expressions remain much the same, but his body language conveys emotions. Idina Menzel as Ratner’s wife, is done with him, and shows it in every move. Scenes with her family are humorous. Julia Fox as the girlfriend puts on a, flirting persona, but she knows well what is going on in that jewelry store. Lakeith Stanfield works for Ratner to bring in Afro-American clients and this includes basketball star Kevin Garnett, as himself. Garnett does well as the player who likes high priced jewelry and likes that certain opal.  Though they don’t have much dialogue, you can recognize Judd Hirsch and Eric Bogosian. 

I was pleasantly surprised at the choice of material for Adam Sandler and how well he does in the role of Howard.  With his slightly stopped posture, he looks as though he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and in a way, he does, with all of his gambling schemes.  You just know something has to go wrong, somewhere, but when? The colorful and loud world of Las Vegas gambling is shown and you can see how, with some individuals, this world can be all-consuming.  In the world of Howard Ratner, it is a marriage between Howard and Fate, which, as we know, has its own mind. 


Copyright 2020 Marie Asner