Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems ★★★★½

Like it or not, this is the American Dream.

Clearly, the Safdie's have an intense obsession with this idea of the hustle. Lenny in Daddy Longlegs, Harley in Heaven Knows What, and Connie in Good Time all had this unwavering commitment to just inching along any way they can, by the skin of their teeth. Howard Ratner is another animal entirely, essentially the human embodiment of this pursuit of personal success with complete reckless abandon. He acts entirely on instinct, his life an unending chain reaction. He never stops to think of the ramifications of his actions, for himself and even more-so for others. His willingness to step on other people and disregard their wants and needs is the dark side of competitive Capitalism no one likes to think about.

How this was paced is really fascinating. As opposed to the never-relenting chaotic energy of Good Time, there are substantial moments to breathe here. Those quiet moments always reveal something too: how someone knows someone else, how two characters' relationship is going currently, all things that deepen the stakes of everything that happens to everyone in Howard's orbit. But those moments of reprieve only heighten the anxiety-inducing stuff to come. There are almost zero wide shots in the movie, never allowing you to escape Howard's headspace.

Sandler is, as he always is when he's locked in, magnetic and intense and commanding and every great trait of an actor you can name. His screen presence is such that even when in a scene with real life celebrities playing themselves (hence when they're at their most charismatic and natural) your eyes feel glued to him. Julia Fox is a revelation alongside him, and apparently KG can act?? Oneohtrix Point Never dazzles again with yet another dizzyingly hypnotic and intoxicating score that is easily among the year's best. In terms of scale it's leaps and bounds outside of their other work, but keeps that grimy New York feel that pervades every frame of what they film.

The sitdown conversation Howard has with KG is the living, breathing thesis of the movie. We all wanna win, we just go about it differently. With an unrelenting ride that ends with one of the great endings I've seen in a while, the Safdie's have found theirs.

P.S. he's phenomenal in this, but anyone calling this KG's best performance clearly hasn't seen Game 7 of the 2004 Western Semis against the Kings

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