Uncut Gems Review
This may seem completely out of left field but I believe this film deserves a place on this blog. First, if you have a problem with bad language or violence don’t watch this movie and secondly it comes with a spoiler alert because we discuss the ending of the film. Perhaps it is best if you watch the movie first on NetFlix and then come back and read this blog.
I have seen some pretty good reviews of this movie and I will place the two best reviews on this blog and then I will add my own comments because although the reviewers do an excellent job they miss (in my opinion) one of the main themes.
Uncut Gems EXPLAINED: Chance, Chaos and Randomness (Ending, Symbolism and Character Themes)
And then there is this very good review which explains the ending of the movie:
Uncut Gems the missing piece
A major theme that has been missed by all the reviewers is the essential Jewishness of the movie. Whether or not it was the intention of the writers / directors they have told a modern day parable.
Let me explain; The crime thriller drama is directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ronald Bronstein. It is therefore a Jewish production. The Safdie brothers are Jewish and their father is a Sephardic Jew. Adam Sandler is Jewish, his family descends from Russian Jewish immigrants on both sides. The movie is set in the NYC diamond district which is Jewish and one scene in the movie shows his wider family celebrating Passover. It is therefore a thoroughly Jewish movie.
This is important because the reviewers have missed the theme that connects everything, namely, that the character of Howard is based on Jacob. Now, Jacob was a deceiver and a trickster all his life and Howard is also a hustler and a swindler. He cheats and deceives everyone, his wife, his lover, his friends. And just like Jacob his life is hard. With Jacob that is reflected by “stones” – Jacob has a stone pillow on which to rest his head, he removes a great stone from a well mouth etc. Howard also has a stone, but it is an uncut gem. When he rubs it and looks inside he can see the glory and beauty of the universe. A bit like Jacob dreaming of angels ascending and descending from the heavens. However, Howard (Jacob) cannot help himself….he must control his destiny….he must impose order on chaos. He deserves the blessing…he deserves grabbing the main chance. He has the will and the power even to wrestle God to a halt. The universe will not stop him attaining what is rightfully his.
Howard’s self belief even rubs off on the basketball athlete (goyim) who also peers into the gem and draws almost supernatural confidence to win the game just as Howard had predicted. Howard has taken full control of the debt collectors and manages to lockdown (sic) his enemies in an event which appears to be random. The debt collectors watch helplessly while Howard executes his play. Howard is on a roll with the help of his basketball friend he has imposed his will on universal chaos and achieved order. His triumph is “godlike” and he is ecstatic with his victory. In his hubris he opens the door with which he constrained his enemies in the deluded understanding that they would not resent his manipulation. They shoot him in the face and also kill his Jewish family member.
The camera then pans into the bullet hole in his face and the wound also gives a view of a vast universe cosmic and raw until the viewer ends up in space. This is indeed a complex movie linking the gem with the universe and also the wound to the universe. It is true that Howard is himself an uncut gem. It is also true that Howard’s moment of greatest victory was also his moment of greatest defeat. However, whether intentionally or not the universe theme says the opposite of randomness to me. He believed he could manipulate his universe not realizing that he was himself only a small part of the universe. In the end everything lives and moves and has its being in God and no one (even Jacob) can impose their will on God. Howard (Jacob) nearly overcame his old self in the third act when he was almost completely and utterly a broken man when he declared that nothing ever goes right for him. Alas, that moment was not one of reflection but of self-pity and it did not last. The opportunity for real change was lost.
This is not a movie that will appeal to everyone. It is frenetic and stressful and induces anxiety rather than relaxation. However I thought it was a cracker of a movie and Adam Sandler was exceptional with his portrayal of Howard. We know Howard is a scum bag but we can’t help rooting for him, pitying him wanting the best for him. It is the mark of a great actor to make us care for such a flawed character.
In my view Howard (Jacob) represents the Jewish people. They are their own greatest enemy. It is not that everyone hates them but could you imagine living with Howard? He would drive you nuts. The Jews will never rule the world by deception. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob does not appreciate megalomania, hypocrisy and deception nor does he condone it in the Torah. Nor does he appreciate your traditions (Talmud, Zohar Kabbalah) and your deceptive reinterpretation of his word. The Howard’s and Jacob’s of this world will never gain control of the universe through an act of will. And before you say the theme of deception and control etc is just another stereotype…….