Uncut Gems (Benny Safdie/Josh Safdie, 2019, USA)

    A cursory look at the Rotten Tomatoes page or social media for Uncut Gems reveals a film that has enamored critics and alienated much of its audience. Gems might be a bit much even for viewers familiar with the Safdie Brothers’ brand of intensity, let alone unsuspecting mainstream moviegoers. While the advertising for Uncut Gems suggests a Scorsese film (he even gets an executive producer credit), the Safdie Brothers’ latest feels more like Robert Altman on speed. Characters talk over each other for much of the film’s 2 hour and 15 minute running time. They also do a lot of yelling. A lot.
    I had high hopes for Uncut Gems after Good Time, and I can see why the critics are praising the film. From the film’s use of the “John Carpenter” font in its opening credits, there are hundreds of signifiers in the film which serve as reference points for those clued into cinema history - particularly American cinema of the 1970s and 80s. The Safdie Brothers do have a distinctive voice, but somehow Uncut Gems is better in parts than as a whole. It has incredible aspects - Daniel Lopatin’s score and Darius Khondji’s cinematography, for example - but has trouble congealing into a sastifying whole.
    Part of this is due to Sandler. The performance by Sandler - in full Pacino mode - is a strange animal. While he is clearly meant to be a bad guy, our lack of sympathy for him is not really the problem. It is more that the performance is so one note. Sandler seems to mistake loudness for acting. Howie Bling is not even charming or funny - he is simply unappealing. Sitting with this character for almost two and a half hours is a bit of a chore. While Good Time was anxiety-producing, it was not annoying - something that can’t exactly be said for Uncut Gems.
    
6/10

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