To think of Adam Sandler as a potential awards-worthy contender might seem a little preposterous in light of people’s first thoughts always being of him in silly goofball comedies such as Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. Over the years though, Sander has dabbled in a few movies here and there that showed he actually has a true range of talent beyond comedy, including films such as Punch Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories. With his most recent film, Uncut Gems, Sandler, playing a deeply-entrenched gambling addict named Howard Ratner, ultimately demonstrates his best performance to date.
In the movie, Howard is by all means driven on every level by his gambling addiction. Always consumed to the very core with getting that next big payout from one of his many gambling endeavors, nothing is beneath him to achieve it. He constantly lies, cheats, barters, looks for angles, makes promises he never seems to keep, uses other people’s property to borrow temporarily for cash solely to gamble away what was never meant to be used for that purpose in the first place, regularly commits infidelity on his wife, and pays little to no attention to any of his family, especially his children, unless it involves a part of his addiction. One day though, when Howard receives an uncut gem from Ethiopia, a black opal, that might be worth via auction over a million dollars, his addiction immediately becomes completely focused on the potential future payout of it. But when pro-basketball player Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics enters his store one afternoon and sees Howard’s new beautiful uncut gem, he asks to hold on to it as a good luck charm for his playoff game happening that night. As collateral, Howard is given Garnett’s championship ring to hold on to, which to the gambling addict he’s become, immediately is seen as potential cash to be used in another big sporting bet. As one bad decision turns into another, and ruthless people Howard owes money to begin to chase him down for collection on previous bad decisions, all stemming from his gambling addiction, Howard fully believes the eventual sale of his uncut gem and another high sporting bet on the side is going to be the very thing that will finally fix his broken life.
As I watched Uncut Gems, I was blown away at how accurate a depiction of addiction was portrayed on screen. There are few movies that truly make me feel the way Uncut Gems did, that being me feeling like I was back in my old addiction and its toxic behaviors. While I suffered from gambling addiction at a minimal level in the past, I have fallen prey to many others that carried the same destructive traits that Howard carried in this movie. What destructive trait was hardest to watch though was Howard getting one chance after another to entirely break free from his vicious cycle of gambling addiction, yet continuing to dig himself a deeper and deeper grave, always hoping that the next bet, would be the score to end all scores. I remember those days so vividly, constantly believing that the next drink, the next drug, the next sexual conquest, the next anything was going to deliver me immediately out of the hell I was living in and vault me straight back into the original state of pure ecstasy that originally kicked off my addiction in the first place. It never happened though and thus the sad plight of the hardcore addict like Howard and like I once was.
Uncut Gems will most definitely be appreciated for the recovering addict of any kind though. But I must say, that for someone who is living in any type of addiction that’s still controlling them, the film is probably only going to annoy or anger them, mostly because they’re not ready to face how sick they’ve become. That’s why I’m quite thankful I enjoyed Uncut Gems as much as I did, as it showed me how far I’ve come in my own recovery from all the addictions I’ve suffered from.
Overall, I highly recommend seeing this film and for Sandler’s sake, I really hope he finally receives the acting credit he deserves, as this movie most definitely showed he’s capable of delivering a performance that’s outstanding on every level…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson