Uncut Gems is a film about a jeweller undergoing major issues in just about every facet of his life (marital, family, business, financial, relationship, and gambling to name the major plot points) and his journey through these problems as he tries to balance them all at once, and come out on top in each of them.
The narrative is driven by its anxiety inducing pacing, focussed around the fast-talking main character (aforementioned jeweller, played by Adam Sandler) with the plot matching (and sometimes outpacing) the speed of the character. Whilst this is overwhelming and slightly confusing at first, it blends into the storytelling and helps to maintain the high-intensity action which is near-constant throughout the film. Important elements get introduced in a blasé way as if this is “just another day” for the character, and as the film progresses the audience is able to piece together the complex relationships present throughout. Several, seemingly key, plot elements get introduced late into the film and add to the complexity of the narrative without confusing the audience, in a unique method of storytelling which changes nothing for the characters but heightens the stakes for the audience.
The film has to be fast-paced to elicit the stress from the audience which most rational people would experience in similar situations. This allows for a detachment from the main character as the audience comes to terms with, though this is a single-character driven story, they are not the “good guy” in this tale. That realisation leads to an internal struggle that whilst the character is trying to “win” at everything, that would be an unsatisfying conclusion to the film. As I was watching Uncut Gems I had to debate what scenario could possibly occur to feel like a satisfying conclusion – most characters I wanted to neither win nor lose, and the few I did want to win/lose seemed to be tied to other characters that I didn’t want to share that win/loss. I am very pleased to say that Uncut Gems managed to find a way to conclude just about every plot point in a satisfying way.
Adam Sandler does a surprisingly good job at playing a serious character. As someone who is fairly ubiquitous with silly and poorly-rated films, Uncut Gems deserves the praise it has received. Sandler’s character is wholly believable, and whilst I wouldn’t want to befriend such an individual, they feel entirely real. Sandler portrays a broad range of emotions during Uncut Gems, executes them well, and stays true to the character throughout. The supporting cast doesn’t have any standout names or moments, but they do a good job, make the world very realistic, and didn’t break my immersion at any point; solid acting across the board.
The cinematography isn’t anything unique, but there’s nothing wrong with it either. Sometimes it is a little difficult to get a sense of the space, but I think that’s somewhat deliberate; the fast-pacing of the film makes it feel very “busy”, and framing shots to appear crowded and/or cramped adds to that busyness by pressuring the audience to try and take it all in and make sense of it, amplifying the stress-driven narrative. As is typical for me, I don’t remember much about the musical queues, but as I say, if I don’t notice them that’s probably a good thing.
Uncut Gems is a dark-drama kind of film, and you do need to be in a technical and focussed mindset to really get the most out of it – if you’re looking for an easy watch at the end of the day there are plenty of other films I can recommend. Uncut Gems is definitely worth a watch, if anything just to prove that Adam Sandler can actually act. Don’t be put off by the confusing nature of the film early on, whilst it doesn’t slow down it does become easier to parse; and if you can handle the anxiety-inducing pacing, it’s a very interesting watch.
- Cinematography – 7/10
- Plot – 8/10
- Acting – 9/10
- Script – 9/10
- Enjoyment* – 8/10
OVERALL – 8.2/10
*Enjoyment is a personal measure of how much I enjoyed the film, more of a “gut feeling” than the empirical approach I try to take with the other ratings.