'Uncut Gems' pulls Adam Sandler away from his tired comedy schtick and nudges him toward nuanced dramatic characters
Sandler has a record of playing the man-child in low brow comedies 'Big Daddy' and semi-decent romcoms like 'Just Go With It', that often relied on the charm of his co-stars (cute kid, Jennifer Aniston) to sail through
'Uncut Gems' has Adam Sandler front and center in a bravura performance as Howard Ratner, the dodgy New York jeweler working out the city's Diamond District. Rave reviews are unanimous -- Sandler is a revelation in this movie as a gambling addict, who is eyeballs deep in debt because he just can't stop betting looking for that one big win that will turn it all around for him.
Benny and Josh Safdie spoke of Sandler's character as an "uncut gem". Benny said, "The idea is that he’s rough on the outside, but if you scratched below the surface, you see the beauty, and you see these things that you didn’t quite know were there at first glance. You need to understand him to really love and know who he is."
Creating a character like that meant despite doing detestable things, he still had to keep the audience's sympathy. In his last semi-dramatic role in 'Punch Drunk Love', he automatically had the audience's sympathies because he was the lonely abused man looking for love.
Howard is a more difficult role precisely because he has to pull audiences into his world and empathize with him (despite that distracting goatee). Sandler has a record of playing the man-child in low brow comedies 'Big Daddy' and semi-decent romcoms like 'Just Go With It', that often relied on the charm of his co-stars (cute kid, Jennifer Aniston) to sail through.
But was he wrong to have settled on the comedy star tag too early in his career? Would he have had a better run playing dramatic roles like the one in 'Uncut Gems'? Or has he needed this much time to finally gain the maturity to play a role that plumbs the depths rather than go for the easy laughs?
Hopefully, the critical and commercial success of this movie will give Sandler the nudge he needs to aim for nuanced dramatic characters that still utilize his comic timing and his sass.
'Uncut Gems' released in theaters December 13.