A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Uncut Gems is a dramedy about a shady New York jeweler to rappers and sports stars. Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is an unflinching liar, philanderer, and compulsive gambler who abuses the trust of family, friends, colleagues, and customers -- even the famous ones. Basketball star Kevin Garnett and singer The Weeknd play themselves, with the music star taking part in a brief scene where he snorts cocaine and sexually pressures a woman despite her repeated refusal. This same woman is in other sexual situations, including sexting in lingerie and pleasuring herself, and is later called a "skank" and "trash" by her boyfriend/boss. The dialogue is a blur of profanity (mostly "f--k" and the "N" word) and lots of yelling. The story is about the pursuit of excessive wealth, but it's not just having money -- rather, the thrill of pulling off a financial "win." There's more violence than you might expect, with frequent physical assaults and a brief moment of intense gun violence, as well as a gory wound. Characters smoke and drink frequently.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In UNCUT GEMS, New York jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is on the brink of a major windfall, having secured a precious block of rare black opal. He's fully leveraged himself, so he tries to balance collectors, his family, and professional relationships in hopes that his conniving and intuition will result in the ultimate win.
Is it any good?
Film festival favorites Benny and Josh Safdie place Sandler inside a cacophony of annoyance in this dramedy. Uncut Gems is an assault of the senses: It has a loathsome central character, unsteady camera work, a thunderstorm of profanity/yelling inside a world of antagonistic relationships, and an out-of-place early-'80s synthesizer score. The elements work against each other. The whole movie feels almost like an exercise in seeing how much an audience can tolerate, including how it plays into negative stereotypes. Favors were surely called in to cast key roles, and while former NBA superstar Kevin Garnett comes off just fine playing himself, you have to wonder why The Weeknd would accept a role that shows him snorting coke, pressuring a woman into sex, and getting beaten up by a 48-year-old schlub.
Sandler isn't new to playing obnoxious or even objectionable, but he does stretch his chops here, plunking down the kind of "ugly cry" rarely seen by men on the big screen. That aside, his character's behavior is such a horror show that he misses the mark. No empathy can be felt for this pathological gambler. Ratner is supposed to be charismatic -- a word easily used for Sandler -- but it's impossible to understand why anyone would trust him, work for him, do business with him, or be his friend. The Safdie brothers add a clever touch, working in a gradual awareness that the film's protagonist is also its antagonist. First, it becomes obvious that Ratner is his own worst enemy. But slowly we realize that Ratner's enemies are actually, in some ways, his victims. It just feels like viewers become victims as well, robbed of more than two hours of their life. Ratner's wife, Dinah (Idina Menzel), might as well be speaking for this viewer when she tells her soon-to-be-ex, "I hate being with you. I hate looking at you. I never want to look at you again." Amen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gambling. What's the difference between making bets for fun and a compulsion? What are the long-term effects? What does Uncut Gems suggest is the psychological appeal of gambling?
What do you think of the filmmakers' use of "street casting" (using untrained actors in roles similar to their real selves)? What did you think of how Kevin Garnett and The Weeknd allowed themselves to be portrayed? Why do you think they agreed to do the film?
Sandler's films often carry a message of learning to value family and friendships. Do you think this film carries a similar message? What do you think are the takeaways?
Did you notice any stereotypes in the film? Why do you think people often rely on stereotypes for humor?
- In theaters: December 13, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: March 10, 2020
- Cast: Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, Julia Fox
- Directors: Ben Safdie, Joshua Safdie
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use
- Last updated: March 9, 2020
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