7/10 After watching all of the Safdie brothers’ films for the first time leading up to this, their filmography is filled with flawed protagonists who are very hard to root for, a look into the darker side of New York, people who struggle with a variety of addictions and their signature, memorable style of film making. “Uncut Gems” fits into this mold but with their biggest budget yet. There are a lot of elements with this film that work and I applaud the Safdie brothers for having had their talents really blossom over their last two films, following their first few films which were hard to get through to be honest. As these film makers have matured, so have their film making sensibilities. This film has one of their best scripts/plots yet and the tone they established is palpable. The film slowly crescendos as it becomes more unsettling and chaotic with each passing minute as our lead character (played by Adam Sandler in one of his best acting performances of his career) will catch a break but can’t help himself as he makes bad decision after bad decision. He is so blinded by greed and chasing success that he doesn’t see how he is destroying the relationships around him including his family, mistress, co-workers, customers, friends, etc. By the time Game 7 rolls around in the film, I wasn’t sure if I was rooting for him to win or lose since he is such a despicable gambling addict. Most of the cast is phenomenal and I love that the Safdie brothers always cast local, unknown, “real” people in small roles, as opposed to everyone being a professional actor. It gives the neighborhoods of this film such an authentic feel to it. Despite being an NBA player, Kevin Garnett even gives a solid performance in this. There were some problems that prevented this film from being as great as their best film, “Good Times”. Julia Fox plays a mistress named Julia in the film and in several scenes, particularly one where she starts to cry after Adam Sandler begins to break down, felt poorly acted on her part. This is her first film and I don’t foresee a long acting career ahead of her if she keeps giving performances like this. The score, while great, was too similar the other Safdie brothers’ films. So while on its own, it is very well done, if you know their body of work, it begins to all sound the same. The film slightly drags in the second act, as this is their longest film by about 40 minutes and they probably could have cut out a good five to ten minutes. Overall, the soundtrack is great (Billy Joel for the win!), the editing is inventive (especially the opening and closing zoom ins), I absolutely loved the ballsy ending and I look forward to whatever project the Safdie brothers decided to tackle next as they continue to grow as film makers. This gem is worth the price of admission; I just wish it would have had a little more polish to it.
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