Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems ★★★

Arguably the Safdies' most expertly controlled feature to date, but perhaps as a consequence it feels more narrowly conceived than either Heaven Knows What or Good Time. The opening is a great joke, elegantly establishing Howard Ratner's cosmic sense of self-regard. And from there the film develops into a stress-comedy centered around his unpleasantness, orchestrating multiple lines of conversation and action with the expert precision of a Hollywood screwball, though with less polished (uncut?), but no less stylized dialogue. Hard to fault anything specific, but this entertaining, propulsive film seems to lack a kind of perpendicular concept/emotion/idea to augment its escalating tension. Julia Fox's girlfriend figure, for instance, the one pure character—she improbably, but genuinely loves Howard, and you feel the sting of her absence when she clears out of the apartment—is poised to provide the movie with precisely that, but eventually becomes something of a missed opportunity. There's no denying that the Safdies are doing exactly what they intend to, but after a point, the impression is that the filmmaking energies directed at maximizing tension might have been more productively portioned elsewhere. (Would be interesting to see them shift gears entirely, if only to show that they can.) Still, the finale is excellent (and the punchline even more so), Lopatin's score as enveloping as ever, and Sandler pitch-perfect in at least a few moments. Perhaps his best line, which probably doesn't work out of context: "I happen to be a litigious individual." Fox, though, basically sums up the movie early on: "You're so extra."

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