Uncut Gems feels both harshly real and somehow not. Much of its runtime is stuffed with unrelentingly realistic, ugly conversations between people, but in a way, it’s also surreal. It feels larger than life.
Between this and the Safdie brothers’ 2017 film Good Time (starring Robert Pattinson), I’m not sure which one I liked more. Good Time is definitely a lot smaller of a film; Uncut Gems’s story is sprawling in size, and the Safdies handle that aspect incredibly well, making for a really terrific film. It’s a totally engrossing experience, and it throws you into the messy world of its characters. Almost always, even in really great movies, I find my mind to wander and randomly think of things that I’ll forget to get back to and drive myself crazy trying to remember later on, and it wasn’t until a while after I got out of the theatre for this that I realized I wasn’t thinking about anything else during this. Uncut Gems drew me in without me even noticing it.
The film dares you to keep up with it, to root for its troubled, irresponsible protagonist who the film (and Adam Sandler) portrays as an undeniably awful person. From a technical standpoint, this is perfect. It has a super fitting score from Daniel Lopatin, and a very distinctive look. The nighttime settings, neon colors, and often grainy, intimate look make you feel like you’re right there with Howard.
The performances around the board are great and to call this well-directed would be an understatement. The Safdies, from a visual and storytelling standpoint, juggle so much in this and it all fits together so perfectly in the end, culminating in an ending that floored me. They create such a fully realized, lived-in, stylish, but grimy world that the characters occupy that it’s hard to look away.
My one gripe with Uncut Gems was that I was a little disappointed by how tense it ended up being. Almost everything I had read written about the film described it as the most nerve-wracking experience of the year, and while I found myself invested, I can’t say I was tense as seemed to be the experience for most watching this, or even as tense as I felt watching the Safdie’s Good Time.
But, nonetheless, Uncut Gems is a super rewarding, entertaining watch from start to finish, and one that also features an excellent performance from Adam Sandler.