Adam Sandler’s problematic protagonist makes fool’s gold out of Uncut Gems
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
Unfortunately, Howard also has a lot of personal problems caused by his demons. That’s why he has an apartment in the city where his employee/girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox) and he can enjoy their rendezvouses and he is a massive gambler, which is why his in-law Arno (Eric Bogosian) wants him to pay him the money he is owed ASAP. That’s also why Arno’s two “business associates” Phil (Keith William Richards) and Nico (Tommy Kominik) are ready to beat Howard any chance they get.
So, what happens when Howard receives a rare gem that ends up tying his future with Garnett, Arno and Julia all together? Let’s just say you can bet on it changing all of their lives forever.
Other than the surreal joy of watching Kevin Garnett playing Kevin Garnett without acting like he is Kevin Garnett, Uncut Gems features a protagonist who is the textbook definition of a sad sack due to his own inability to get out of his own way. Sandler’s Howard Ratner is manic, fast-talking, obsessive and unappreciative of his own fortunes, always driven by his next big hit. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley once famously coined the phrase “the disease of more,” saying “Success is often the first step towards disaster” – meaning that once one has a little bit of it, the compulsion for more of it often leads to one’s own undoing. Perhaps the Safdie brothers, like Sandler himself, are really big basketball fans, hence their need to create a character Riley himself might deem uncoachable. Thus, Uncut Gems is much like being a fan of a popular sports team that the rest of the league hates – only built for die-hard Sandler fans only (for the most part) who will support “their guy” no matter what.
Unlike Robert Pattinson in the Safdie brothers’ previous effort, the stellar Good Time, Ratner has zero redeeming qualities to the point you almost – almost – enjoy watching him fail. This is a self-destructive man doing self-destructive things: That may be the point, but while it’s a point well-taken, it is also one that isn’t exactly (for lack of a better word) fun point to watch.
Whereas Pattinson’s character was trying to do something wrong to provide a better life for he and his mentally challenged brother, Sandler’s character is a pure narcissist who treats everything and everyone – Julia especially – like just another trophy. (Given that he is a jeweler and what gems represent in both the film and in American society, of course, the metaphors abound aplenty.) Sandler’s character is King Midas … And anyone who’s paid attention to any basic Greek mythology in a social studies class knows how well that worked out for him.
Which is a shame, because Uncut Gems had a lot more potential to be a good Christmas present for someone outside of just hardcore Sandler and Garnett fans.