There’s been something of a trend in recent years for movies that have long, really long shots. Some, like Birdman, make the effort to have a faux single take. This effect tends to draw you in, hypnotizing you into the story with the constant movement, no jarring reminders that you’re watching something play out.
And yet, once you understand the gimmick, these sorts of things can feel a little gamey. Overly staged. As if you’ve gone to a theater instead of sitting on your couch, waiting to see a multi-camera exploit explode in front of your eyes.
Uncut Gems, then, is the movie for those who want to be wholly absorbed without leaving normal movie magic behind. You can’t, really, look away because every second has something insane going on. Whether it’s Kevin Garnett losing his mind in a magical opal, Adam Sandler getting stuffed into the trunk of a car, or a repeated demand for a blacklight… okay. You’d be forgiven reading that last one to wonder if, perhaps, a blacklight ask is missable.
The thing is, though, you won’t want to. You may actively hate this movie as you watch it – many of its characters explore the broad, mountainous terrain of terrible choices and terrible personalities – but you may not have the chance to turn it off.
Sandler’s performance anchors this desire to keep watching, because he is both a scumbag and so utterly ridiculous you can’t help but wonder how he’s going to make it out of the next thing, only for him to get that next thing and double down. He doesn’t win so much as fail upwards while the ladder disintegrates beneath him.
There’s a new Ernest Hemingway story in this last New Yorker (trust me, this is going somewhere) titled “The Pursuit As Happiness”. In it, Hemingway and a couple pals continue to extend a fishing trip gone bad because, even in its lack of great catches, they’re enjoying themselves too much to stop. The chase is better than anything that isn’t the chase.
Uncut Gems is another version of this story. A madcap race that, you start to realize, is more about the race than the winning of it. The rush of risking it all, of turning every loss into another potential win. Put it all at stake, and, win or lose, ante up again.
The losses only count if you stop playing.
One other thing before I check out today – if you’re looking for something new to read, the pre-order for Champion’s Call is live. You can check it out at your favorite retailer now for a special pre-order price. It’s the sequel to Paragon’s Fall and brings more superhero madness, right to your page-flipping fingertips.