‘Uncut Gems’: No kidding around, Sandler gets serious
Photo: Courtesy of A24
Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner in “Uncut Gems.”

By Susan Kandell Wilkofsky
It’s safe to say that Adam Sandler entered our collective psyche as a comedian who tickled our funny bone “Saturday Night Live.” Who could forget his rendition of “The Hanukkah Song” which rhymed the word yarmulke with Hanukkah? He’s back with another present for you for this holiday season. But before you unwrap this gift, I give you fair warning — it’s not the elemental Adam Sandler you’ve come to love. He’s driven you to a new territory — 47th Street. Welcome to the neighborhood! No laughs — but plenty of salty language liberally sprinkled throughout.
This isn’t to say that Sandler hasn’t experimented with drama before. He has steered into the sphere of drama with roles in “Spanglish,” “Punch-Drunk Love” and most recently “The Meyerowitz Stories,” which was well received by fans and critics. But “Uncut Gems” ventures into new territory beyond the pale.
Directed by brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a Jewish jewelry dealer with a showroom on 47th Street that caters to a bling lifestyle. He’s a real yutz, sometimes a schnorrer bordering on gonif. Take your pick! You get the picture — a real operator who is always looking for the big score. He’s also a family man (with a girlfriend on the side), a gambling addict and major basketball fan. One day, Kevin Garnett — yep, the real NBA all-star — ventures into his showroom, and sets the wheels of “Uncut Gems” in motion. Ratner has procured an enormous opal-encrusted stone mined in Ethiopia and anticipates that this will be his salvation while Garnett covets the stone for luck.
Now is a good time to strap on your seat belt as you follow Ratner from one stressful moment to the next while accompanied by the pounding beat of the soundtrack — masquerading as another character in the film. His monumentally poor decision-making leads him down a dark path while the Safdie brothers ratchet up the tension. During the height of my adrenaline rush, a strange new element overtook my senses and I began to root for this loathsome character. Truly a testament to great filmmaking!
Although I won’t be placing “Uncut Gems” on my “Best of 2019” films (the violence is too far over the top), I do think Sandler may walk away with a Best Actor nomination. The camera never leaves his face, which is an amalgam of pain and hope. Sandler continues to surprise me, selecting roles that challenge our perception of his ability as an actor. Like a 3-point shot in basketball, he takes some risks, but when he hits, he scores big!

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