Imagine you want something so bad that you put in every bit of your effort in trying to acquire it. Nothing is too big a price to pay for it. After all, the stakes are as high. You risk losing everything you have if you fail to obtain this object — your friends, your family, the very last dregs of your money, your sanity and even your life! And then you realise that you are separated from that object by an impenetrable, transparent wall.
The frustration, the excitement that is bordering on anxiety and nail-biting thrill is what you experience with Howard Ratner, the protagonist of Uncut Gems (2019). It feels as real as sitting on a ticking time bomb, only that you don’t know when it might go off. Ratner (played by Adam Sandler) is a jeweller who is addicted to gambling. And the elusive object we were mentioning earlier? Well, that is the rare black uncut opal that has travelled all the way from the Welo mine in Ethiopia to Ratner’s store in New York City's Diamond District. Ratner is trying to pay off his huge gambling debts and the one thing that can bail him out is the opal. But there exist many a slip between the cup and the lip. And the slips include Ratner’s brother-in-law and loan shark Arno (played by Eric Bogosian), Ratner’s secretary and girlfriend Julia De Fiore (Julia Fox) and even the ace basketball player Kevin Garnett!
There is no dearth of problems in the protagonist’s life. Besides being neck-deep in debt as a result of gambling, his wife is divorcing him, his brother-in-law is baying for his blood, his mistress is cheating on him, he is worried that he has colon cancer and the one thing that can bail him out of his problems (well, most of them) — the uncut black opal — seems to have been stolen from under his nose. The last straw? His own showroom has locked him out — the doors are jammed and he is unable to get in.
So, when he sobs, "Everything I do is not going right," your heart goes out to him despite him being a liar, a compulsive gambler, a bad husband and a jealous lover, yet a loving dad. A man who cannot stop acting a fool and yet has his heart in the right place. You want to reach out and comfort him when he is broken and kick him when he is going to make another bad decision that is going to disintegrate his already-shattered life further.
From Adam Sandler to Eric Bogosian to Julia Fox, each of the actors gives a spectacular performance in Uncut Gems. Undoubtedly so for Adam Sandler, who gives the best performance of his career in this movie. The man amazes with what he is capable of, as opposed to what we have seen him in movies like Jack & Jill. The direction by the brothers - Josh and Benny Safdie - makes Uncut Gems among the most fast-paced and racing accounts, yet gives you the time to absorb the intensity of emotions and be exhausted by it.
The movie is on Netflix. Watch it to revel in Sandler’s unbeatable performance and the director’s riveting storytelling.