Most of my responses to Josh and Benny Safdie‘s Uncut Gems were about irritation and frustration. Because, in my judgment, Sandler’s Howard Ratner, a total gambling junkie, isn’t interesting. Not because Sandler isn’t good in the role — he’s actually brilliant — but because the film has no interest in looking or reaching beyond the hustling mood-rush aspects of his wildly self-destructive addiction.
That’s not a putdown of Sandler’s performance. Within the realm that the Safdies have created, he’s completely authentic. We all know what Sandler’s screen persona has been for the last 25 years — droll, laid-back, quippy, sarcastic smart-ass. Howard Ratner is different. Sandler has never given himself to a character like this before. I just want to make that clear. You could say that Sandler is better than the film. I completely respect what he’s done here. In fact, I’ve just visited Gold Derby and upped his standing to fourth place (right behind Adam Driver, Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro).