A towering performance from the often tiresome actor drives an anxiety-inducing film about a risk-addicted jewelry dealer
In Uncut Gems, the Safdie brothers’ anxiety-inducing follow-up to Good Time, we spend over two hours attached at the hip to Adam Sandler, a prospect that might not seem particularly thrilling. But the guy who signed a mammoth deal with Netflix “because it rhymes with wet chicks” is also the guy who chose to work with Paul Thomas Anderson and Noah Baumbach, film-makers willing to look beyond the fart jokes to see an actor who just needs to be directed.
Both roles were particularly compelling not just because they represented such a dramatic departure from the kind of movie we associate him with but also because his style of acting was suddenly so transformed. Often when comedy stars “go serious”, you can see the shadow of their funnier selves in every scene, but when taken out of his comfort zone, the Sandler we know virtually disappears. There was humour in both Punch-Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories but it was awkward and intimate, more likely to make one shift in their seat than guffaw. Sandler has an under-appreciated ability to connect with the uncomfortable aspects of his more fleshed out characters, embarrassingly so at times, and his latest, arguably greatest, delve into drama pushes this to a whole new level.