The Brothers Safdie terrific, anxiety-inducing, degenerate gambler tale UNCUT GEMS finally hit Netflix today for those who haven't seen yet or want to re-visit.
When I saw Adam Sandler crush it for Paul Thomas Anderson in PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE in 2002, I thought, "Finally, he showed us there's a bona fide actor in there". As a fan since he broke in on "SNL", it was cool to see him have some critical success after his run of hits geared toward the under 18 demo. But rather than continue in that direction, the Sandman got the bag. Then another one. Then 5 more on top of that. And hey, good for him. I never begrudge a person for getting paid but it was like PDL was more of a tease than anything (even though he did take on a few dramatic roles, none were generating anything close to Oscar buzz). But after seeing his nerve-racking turn as jeweler to the stars, Howard Ratner, that also happens to be a degenerate gambler in the Safdie brothers chaotically excellent UNCUT GEMS, I immediately thought, "he's back!"; "he" being the Sandler that is so much more than goofy tics and sophmoric hijinx but rather very capable of depth and nuance. A celluloid Xanax this is not. It's a movie where the stakes are constantly raised, the behavior more reckless. As a lifelong gambler, I could certainly relate to the scenes of Ratner's anxiety. This is a movie that keeps you glued for 2+ hours and leaves you slack-jawed. Let's hope Sandler doesn't wait as long for his next outstanding dramatic performance.
I'm definitely going to dive into this one again. The Sandman's work was certainly worthy of a nomination but it was a tough year with the work from DiCaprio, Phoenix, Banderas, and Driver (I haven't seen THE TWO POPES nor do I plan to). And the Safdie Brothers also turned in writing and directing work that easily could've been recognized by the Academy. Alas.
When you're done with GEMS, check out GOOD TIME (also on Netflix). But you might want a breather in between.