Adam Sandler has been, since his work in SNL, the only actor I’ve crossed the street to avoid.
Sandler has been for me, the worst actor since Sonny Tufts in the 40s and Tab Hunter in the 50s.
Adam Sandler has consistently been for this reviewer, the coughing man in the elevator, the wind-breaking guy in the checkout line at the market, and the corpse in the subway.
So, why did I agree to screen “Uncut Gems” at the Railroad Cinema in Waterville? For the same reason the mailman walks in the snow to deliver catalogs to your house, or the trash man picks up the trash. It’s my job.

Sometimes I get a genuine uncut gem, sometimes I get dumpster trash. I write for food.
In the first 10 minutes of “Uncut Gems,” I looked at my watch 10 times, checked my mail and ate popcorn. I could have left and panned it at once.
Then something happened. I was hit with the biggest surprise of the decade.
In “Uncut,” Adam Sandler throws off his decades of trash and grows up in front of your eyes. The moron of “Happy Gilmore,” the unspeakable ham of “Spanglish,” was magically transformed by a superior script and genius of the Safdie brothers.
Who woke him up? The Safdie brothers, Joshua and Benny, (“Daddy Longlegs,” “Good Time,”) that’s who. (There’s an eight-page piece on them in the Dec. 16 New Yorker.)
When “Uncut Gems” opens on Christmas Day, you will be one of the first to be there to witness, if not the rebirth of Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, at least his bar mitzvah.
Sandler plays Howard, a jewelry dealer on Manhattan’s 7th Avenue diamond district, a motor-mouthed, gambling-addicted megalomaniac, who owes mobsters over $1,000K and who, as the movie progresses, follow him from his glassed-in shop to his home in the ‘burbs to bloody his nose, strip him naked at his daughter’s school play, and lock him in the trunk of his Mercedes. There’s more.
Howard, who has been since birth, looking for the biggest deal, the biggest score in the business, is the contemptuous, boorish, annoying and apparently successful member of a family of the noted successful Jewish jewelers headed by family friend Gooey, (Judd Hirsch.)
Here is Sandler as Howard, goatee, fancy belt, Gucci loafers, custom-made sunglasses and Ralph Lauren street clothes. He makes his way through the garbage littered streets of the city each day, followed by loan sharks and gangsters.
It seems that the brothers Safdie were born in a taxi cab and left to grow up on the streets of their city. As Howard plunges through the day, dodging imminent death and possible disfigurement, we can smell the diamond district’s people, the overwhelming stench of women’s cheap perfume and killer gangsters’ cologne.
Orson Welles’ “Rosebud”and maybe Bogie’s “Falcon,” emerge here as a huge rock full of gems stolen from the diamond mines in the Well Mine of Ethiopia. It arrives stuffed in a sturgeon, wrapped in paper. Howard had ordered it. How? Don’t ask. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Howard’s wife Dinah (Idina Menzel) is looking to unload him to his office worker girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox,) who, like his two boys, adores him. That’s the soft part.
Armed with a fish-smelling rock, Howard is looking to sell it and pay off his debtors, a pack of arm breakers that include his cousin Arno (Eric Bogosian) who may be part of the Jewish Mafia.
The subplot: A very big bet on an important basketball game involving Celtic’s forward Kevin Garnet (who does an incredible job.)
Watching “Uncut Gems,” a tsunami of breathtaking moments, piling up the best street characters since Damon Runyon’s people, is like watching a chimpanzee play the cello at Carnegie Hall. You have to see it to believe it.
The quirky Safdie brothers, who seem to have been invented by the Marx Brothers and Preston Sturges, had a success with “Good Time,” but “Uncut” is surely their ticket to the Oscars.
Be warned, very warned. “Uncut Gems” is no Christmas movie. There are no real sex scenes, but it’s vulgar, loud, obscene, scary, a crime thriller disguised as a comedy. I lost count of the use of the F, C and M.F. words after number 617.
Still, having grown up on similar streets, I settled for nostalgia.
You may disagree, but I’m betting that “Uncut Gems” will be nominated for Best Picture and Sandler for Best Actor. I can’t believe I just said that.

J.P.  Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.

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