Uncut Gems

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Uncut Gems
Uncut Gems poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJosh Safdie
Benny Safdie
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Music byDaniel Lopatin
CinematographyDarius Khondji
Edited by
  • Ronald Bronstein
  • Benny Safdie
Production
company
Distributed by
Release date
  • August 30, 2019 (2019-08-30) (Telluride)
  • December 13, 2019 (2019-12-13) (United States)
Running time
135 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$19 million[4]
Box office$50 million[4]

Uncut Gems is a 2019 American crime thriller film[5] directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ronald Bronstein. The film stars Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, a Jewish jeweler and gambling addict in New York City's Diamond District, who must retrieve an expensive gem he purchased to pay off his debts. The film also stars Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, and Eric Bogosian. Filming took place from September to November 2018. The original score was composed by Daniel Lopatin.

Uncut Gems had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2019. It entered into a limited release in the United States on December 13, 2019, before a wide release on December 25, by A24. The film received critical acclaim, especially for Sandler's performance. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2019, with Sandler also winning the Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead. It became A24's highest-grossing film domestically with $50 million.

Plot[edit]

In 2010, Ethiopian Jewish miners retrieve a rare black opal from the Welo mine in Africa. Shifting to 2012, gambling addict Howard Ratner runs KMH, a jewelry store in New York City's Diamond District. Howard struggles to pay off gambling debts, including $100,000 he owes to Arno, his loan shark brother-in-law. His domestic life is split between Dinah, his estranged wife who has agreed to a divorce after Passover, and his girlfriend Julia, a KMH employee.

Howard's business associate Demany brings basketball star Kevin Garnett to KMH. While Garnett is in the store, the rare Ethiopian black opal Howard has ordered arrives. Garnett becomes obsessed with it, insisting on holding onto it for good luck at his game that night. Howard reluctantly agrees, accepting Garnett's 2008 NBA Championship ring as collateral.

Immediately after Garnett leaves, Howard pawns the ring and places a six-way parlay on Garnett playing extraordinarily well in that night's game. Howard wins $600,000, but is ambushed at his daughter's school play by Arno and his bodyguards Phil and Nico. Arno reveals that he placed a stop on Howard's bet as it was made with money owed to him. Phil and Nico strip Howard naked and lock him in the trunk of his car, forcing him to call Dinah for help.

Howard tracks down Demany at a party hosted by the Weeknd. Demany says that Garnett still has the opal, angering Howard. Howard discovers Julia and the Weeknd snorting cocaine together in a bathroom, and thinking Julia had cheated on him, gets into a fight with the Weeknd. Feeling betrayed, Howard demands that Julia move out of his apartment. After an awkward Passover dinner, Dinah rejects Howard's plea to give their marriage another chance.

Garnett returns the opal before the auction and offers to purchase it for $175,000, but Howard refuses, given the substantially larger appraisal. Just before the auction starts, Howard discovers the opal has been appraised for significantly less than his initial estimate of $1 million. He convinces his father-in-law Gooey to bid on the gem to drive up the price, but the plan backfires when Garnett fails to top Gooey's final bid. A furious Gooey gives Howard the opal before Arno, Phil, and Nico assault Howard outside the auction house. Howard returns to KMH, bloody and in tears. Julia comforts him and they reconcile.

Howard learns that Garnett is still willing to purchase the opal; as soon as the sale is made, Howard bets the proceeds on a three-way parlay on Garnett having a strong performance. He tells Julia to travel by helicopter to Mohegan Sun to place the bet for him. Julia narrowly escapes as Arno, Phil and Nico arrive at KMH. The thugs find Howard in his office and threaten him, but he refuses to call Julia and cancel the bet. Furious, the three attempt to pursue her, but Howard locks them in between the store's security doors. Howard watches the game on TV while Arno, Phil and Nico remain trapped.

Garnett's Boston Celtics win the game, winning Howard $1.2 million. An ecstatic Howard frees Arno, Phil and Nico, but Phil, enraged, shoots and kills Howard. Arno protests and tries to escape, but Phil kills him as well. Julia leaves the casino with Howard's winnings. Phil and Nico loot the store as the police are called.

Cast[edit]

Additionally, John Amos, Ca$h Out, Joe Iskhakov, and Trinidad James appear as themselves, with Amos appearing as Howard's neighbor and the others as acquaintances of Demany. Natasha Lyonne and Tilda Swinton have brief voice appearances as a Celtics staff member and an auction house manager, respectively.[7]

Production[edit]

Josh and Benny Safdie conceived the film in 2009, and approached Adam Sandler to star; however, Sandler’s manager rejected the film’s script before Sandler got a chance to read it.[8] In May 2016, it was announced that the Safdies would direct the film, from a screenplay they wrote alongside Ronald Bronstein.[9] The film’s executive producers were Emma Tillinger Koskoff and Martin Scorsese, and it was produced by Elara Pictures and RT Features.[9] In May 2017, Jonah Hill joined the cast, with Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Sebastian Bear-McClard joining as producers, and A24 distributing.[1]

In April 2018, Sandler replaced Hill.[10] In August 2018, Eric Bogosian and Judd Hirsch joined the cast.[11][12] In September 2018, Lakeith Stanfield and Idina Menzel joined, with Netflix acquiring international distribution rights.[13][14] In October 2018, it was revealed that The Weeknd, Trinidad James and Pom Klementieff had joined,[15][16] followed by Kevin Garnett in November 2018.[17] Kobe Bryant, Amar'e Stoudemire and Joel Embiid were also considered for Garnett's role.[17] Principal photography began on September 25, 2018, in New York City,[18] and concluded on November 15, 2018.[19] The film was shot by Darius Khondji on 35 mm film.[20]

Daniel Lopatin composed the original soundtrack.[21] He also recorded several songs with the Weeknd for the film, which went unused; however, he has production credits on the Weeknd's most recent album, After Hours.[22] The score was released on December 13, 2019, on CD and vinyl, and digital streaming services.[23]

The opening and closing sequences were inspired by the gemological photomicrography of Eduard Gübelin and Danny J. Sanchez.[24][25]

Josh and Benny Safdie's Jewish upbringing was essential to their crafting of the film. The story was heavily influenced by their father's time working in the Diamond District as a salesman.[26][27] When creating the character of Howard, Josh and Benny Safdie said they were heavily influenced by Jewish humor and actors from the 20th century, wanting Howard to encompass Jewish stereotypes proudly and treat them as a "superpower."[28] The Jewish concept of "learning through suffering" would be important for the character of Howard throughout the film.[28]

Release[edit]

The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2019.[29][30] It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2019.[31] It was released in limited theaters the United States on December 13, 2019, and had a nationwide release on December 25, 2019.[32] It was released internationally on Netflix on January 31, 2020, and began streaming in the United States on May 25, 2020.[33][34]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

In its limited opening weekend the film made $537,242 from five theaters for a per-venue average of $107,448, the highest ever for A24 and the second-best total of 2019.[35] It then made $241,431 in its second weekend.[36] The film made $5.9 million on the first day of wide release (including $1.1 million from previews on Christmas Eve), the highest single-day gross in A24's history.[37] It went on to make a total of $18.5 million over the five days ($9.6 million in the weekend), finishing sixth at the box office.[38] In its second weekend of wide release the film made $7.5 million, finishing eighth.[39]

Critical response[edit]

Adam Sandler's performance garnered widespread critical acclaim, with several critics deeming it the best of his career.

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 320 reviews, with an average rating of 8.39/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Uncut Gems reaffirms the Safdies as masters of anxiety-inducing cinema—and proves Adam Sandler remains a formidable dramatic actor when given the right material."[40] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 90 out of 100, based on 56 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[41] Audiences polled by CinemaScore during the film's limited release gave it an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale; upon going wide, it earned a "C+" score, as well as an average 2 out of 5 stars on PostTrak.[35][38]

Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film a grade of A, calling it "a riveting high-wire act, pairing cosmic visuals with the gritty energy of a dark psychological thriller and sudden bursts of frantic comedy".[42] Jake Cole of Slant Magazine gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, writing, "As in Good Time, Uncut Gems finds the Safdies working in genre rooted in the grimy, character-oriented crime films of the '70s."[43] Radheyan Simonpillai of Now commented that "there's so much propulsive, forward momentum even when the characters never get anywhere."[44] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Many will agree that this is Sandler's best performance, and the Safdies will finally move from the fringes of the commercial film scene to somewhere closer to the center."[45]

In her round-up of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, Wendy Ide of The Guardian ranked Uncut Gems as one of the best films of the year, calling it "Audacious, thrilling and exhausting" and Sandler's "remarkable performance" as one of the best performances of the year, and praising the cinematography.[46] Kevin Garnett's performance was also received positively.[47][48] Brady Langmann of Esquire called it the year's best breakout performance and Alan Siegel wrote on The Ringer that it was "one of the best acting performances by an athlete ever."[49][50]

Uncut Gems was ranked by The A.V. Club as the 92nd-best film of the 2010s.[51]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result
Casting Society of America[52] January 30, 2020 Feature Big Budget – Comedy Francine Maisler Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards[53] January 12, 2020 Best Picture Uncut Gems Nominated
Best Director Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie Nominated
Best Actor Adam Sandler Nominated
Best Editing Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie Nominated
Detroit Film Critics Society[54] December 9, 2019 Best Actor Adam Sandler Nominated
Best Use of Music Uncut Gems Nominated
Golden Raspberry Awards[55] March 16, 2020 The Razzie Redeemer Award Adam Sandler Nominated
Gotham Awards[56] December 2, 2019 Best Feature Uncut Gems Nominated
Best Actor Adam Sandler Nominated
Breakthrough Actor Julia Fox Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards[57] February 8, 2020 Best Feature Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Sebastian Bear-McClard Nominated
Best Director Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie Won
Best Male Lead Adam Sandler Won
Best Screenplay Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie Nominated
Best Editing Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award[58] December 8, 2019 Best Editing Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie runner-up
National Board of Review[59] January 8, 2020 Best Actor Adam Sandler Won
Best Original Screenplay Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie Won
Top Ten Films Uncut Gems Won
New York Film Critics Circle[60] January 7, 2020 Best Director Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie Won
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle[61] December 15, 2019 Best Actor Adam Sandler Won
Best Score Daniel Lopatin Won
San Diego Film Critics Society[62] December 9, 2019 Best Actor Adam Sandler Nominated
Best Director Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie Won
Best Original Screenplay Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie runner-up
Best Editing Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie runner-up
Satellite Awards[63] December 19, 2019 Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical Uncut Gems Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical Adam Sandler Nominated
St. Louis Film Critics Association[64] December 15, 2019 Best Actor Adam Sandler Won

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Barfield, Charles (September 12, 2018). "Lakeith Stanfield Joins The Safdie Brothers' 'Uncut Gems' As Netflix Signs On For International Distribution". The Playlist. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  3. ^ "Uncut Gems". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved September 29, 2019.
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  6. ^ Diamond, Wayne (December 17, 2019). "Meet Wayne Diamond, the man who made Uncut Gems unfuggedable".
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  8. ^ Adam Sandler Was Offered A Role In "Uncut Gems" 10 Years Ago - CONAN on TBS (video). Retrieved April 5, 2020.
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  23. ^ "Daniel Lopatin - Uncut Gems - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Vinyl, LP, CD. Oneohtrix Point Never". OPN. October 29, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
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  27. ^ SAFDIE (April 18, 2012). "Our dad ran gems borough2borough for an outsider gem distributor who was constantly getting ripped off by the fabric around him #inspiration". @JOSH_BENNY. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
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  30. ^ "Telluride Program Guide" (PDF). Retrieved August 29, 2019.
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  48. ^ Harris, Hunter (December 13, 2019). "Are You Ready for Kevin Garnett, the Actor?". Vulture. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
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  50. ^ Siegel, Alan (December 13, 2019). "How Kevin Garnett Landed in 'Uncut Gems'". The Ringer. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
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  55. ^ "RAZZ NEWZ - The Razzies!". razzies.com.
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  57. ^ Sharf, Zack (November 21, 2019). "2020 Independent Spirit Awards Nominees: 'Marriage Story,' 'Uncut Gems,' and More". IndieWire.
  58. ^ @LAFilmCritics (December 8, 2019). "Best Editing, Runner-up: Ronald Bronstein & Benny Safdie, UNCUT GEMS. #LAFCA" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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External links[edit]