By Daniel Occelli (Mexico City)
With Uncut Gems the Safdie Brothers are back with a visceral, nonstop thrill ride as frustrating and exhausting as Good Times. This time telling the story of Howard Ratner, a struggling Jewish jeweler living in New York City in the year 2012, and he’s journey through a series of bad decisions and all out screw ups that will make you want to yell at the screen. A movie that will make you want to crawl out of your own skin in frustration, a film that will fill you with anxiety for almost 2 hours without any breaks, a masterpiece that will make you feel so immersed in its universe that you will actually feel as if you’re sharing the same space as this characters, Uncut Gems is one of the best movies of the year without a doubt.
The Safdie Brothers seem to have created a whole genre with their two last films, in which we follow our main character for a brief period of time and we are filled with anxiety as this character tries to reach a seemingly achievable goal with a deadline. The problem is we follow characters that can’t seem to stop messing things up, in any other case we would hate this character, but in both Good Times, and in this film with Howie, played perfectly by Adam Sandler, we can’t help but to empathize with them. This is why this film works in so many levels, the characters are so flawed but also so vulnerable. They make stupid mistakes and they face the consequences of their actions. They’re human, extremely human, the Safdie Brothers are not casting Hollywood’s hottest actors to create this world, the whole universe in which the story unfolds is filled with odd looking people, in real places that don’t feel like set pieces with real noise and real interruptions which makes the experience feel so real.
I think it’s pretty obvious that I adore this film, but let’s get specific. What do I love?
First of all the directing, the claustrophobic feel of it all, the close shots, the tracking shots, the way the Safdie Brothers take you into the movie from the first scene and how they don’t let you go until the credits start rolling, I really think that’s something I haven’t seen in films in a long time and it feels fresh and new. What also builds this film is the sound design, in every scene everybody’s talking over everybody, you can barely hear what the character on the spot is saying and that starts to build up the viewer’s anxiety. Another thing I loved about this film is the casting, Adam Sandler is back after a long time of absence with the best performance of his career, Idina Menzel is so powerful as his estranged wife and Julia Fox is introduced as Julia, Howie’s lover and she really steals every scene she’s in, she was amazing, last but not least LaKeith Stanfield, after Sorry to Bother You I was really excited for what he was going to do next, and he really did not disappoint, he was fantastic. This are all great casting choices but the real brilliant choices are Kevin Garnet and The Weekend as themselves, especially KG what an amazing performances, he’s not really playing himself, there was a real challenge with this character and he killed it.
I could go on and on about how amazing this film is, I really could, the cinematography is great, the score is unbelievable and the editing is spot on. As for flaws I would have to be very nitpicky and say maybe it can be annoying if you’re not on the mood, but that isn’t really a flaw, just try to be ready for it.
I will give Uncut Gems an A+ one of 4 movies this year to get the highest grade.
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