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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Uncut Gems: Drama at the Speed of Light

I realized years ago when I saw Milton Berle in a serious dramatic role - I think in The Oscar in the 1960s - that, contrary to what you might think, comedians can make excellent dramatic actors.  Robin Williams confirmed this decades later, with a vengeance, in Insomnia.

Adam Sandler plays a serious role in Uncut Gems so frenetic that's it's almost beyond serious.  But it's certainly not comedic. at least for the most part.  Howard Ratner's a jeweler and a gambler, with a keen sense of both.  But he moves so quickly that he's almost always out on a limb, in danger of being beaten or worse, and this applies to his personal as well as professional life.

His main adversary is his brother-in-law, played by Eric Bogosian, who is dead serious as Arno, and moves at a tenth of Sandler's speed, all of the time.  Julia Fox puts in a good, even lovable performance as Howard's girlfriend Julia, and Idina Menzel has the perfect face and expressions for Howard's cheated-on wife.   There's a great seder scene, and I'm always a sucker for Yiddishkite.

Back to Howard, the thing is that he knows what he's doing, as a jeweler as well as a gambler.  He has almost limitless confidence, however, and although it's often borne out, it also leads him to make difficult and dangerous bets.   The formula leads Howard to near misses with fortune and death, and a face that looks increasingly like a punching bag.

But basketball not boxing is the sport in this fast-paced movie, and it all builds up to a crucial, complex, multi-faceted bet on a basketball game.

You can bet on it yourself if you like, but you'll never guess how the movie ends.

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