"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Uncut Gems

UNCUT GEMS is the latest and highest profile movie from writer/director brothers Josh and Benny Safdie. I recently caught up with their previous movie GOOD TIME and I loved it, so I would’ve been excited for this even without the hype.

It’s the story of Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler, CONEHEADS), a New York jeweler who specializes in making ridiculous necklaces for rich musicians and athletes. His claim to fame is a blinged out Furby medallion he once made for some rapper to wear in a video. His shop is a tiny room behind a security door and he depends on people with connections like affiliate Demany (LaKeith Stanfield, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB) and employee/mistress Julia (Julia Fox) to hook him up with VIP clients. Julia is using her hotness and her side career as a photographer to hook that singer The Weeknd, and Demany brings in Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett.

The trouble (at least the main trouble) begins when Howie tries to impress KG with a big chunk of rock full of opals that he just got sent to him from Ethiopia. It’s scheduled to be auctioned in a few days but he agrees to let KG borrow it as a good luck charm during a game. See, Howie takes a championship ring as collateral and then temporarily pawns it to get some cash to use for a bet to get out from under another bet. He’s already in deep with his loan shark brother-in-law Arno (Eric Bogosian, UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY) and I could be wrong but it seems to me there’s a possibility that this new scheme won’t turn out the way he hopes.

By the way, things aren’t going great with his wife Dinah (Broadway star Idina Menzel) either. She knows some of the reasons he’s a piece of shit, but they haven’t told the kids they’re getting a divorce, so a couple of the way too many plates he’s trying to juggle are family related. Sandler is a master of the dumbshit half smile pretending to be oblivious to his family’s glares of disgust as he disappoints them again and again. And this poor woman has to do shit like sit in the car with the kids pretending to believe his lies about why he has to stop off at an apartment that he got for the girlfriend it never would occur to them he’d have.

I liked this alot, but I imagine if you’re not on its wavelength it must be one of the most grating movies you’ll ever see, because it’s designed to be a stressful ordeal. So many scenes are a bunch of people yelling over each other, often times crammed into a small room, almost always with frantic synth music by Daniel Lopatin a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never threatening to drown them out. Also it’s kind of a hectic handheld shooting style, though it looks beautiful because it’s shot on film by fuckin Darius Khondji (DELICATESSEN, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, SE7EN, STEALING BEAUTY, AMOUR, OKJA).

And it’s not exactly a crowdpleaser of a protagonist. When the movie starts he’s already in over his head from the unspecified fuckup, followed by dudes he ripped off, threatened by enforcers. He’s fucked up his family life, his mistress is way out of his league and nicer to him than he deserves, but he’s willing to sell her out and call her “trash” to his wife. What little charm he has is clearly a veneer of bullshit barely hiding his constant desperation. His daily activities are centered around obsessions I can’t relate to: the novelty jewelry, detailed NBA opinions, high stakes gambling. The climax is a long scene of him excitedly watching a basketball game and narrating it to three sweaty scary criminals glowering at him from behind the bullet proof glass he trapped them in.

I noted in my review that GOOD TIME seemed to have a few loose themes about racism – I liked that, but I think UNCUT GEMS is more successful with such lofty ambitions. The movie opens in Ethiopia to show us the miserable existence of the miners (one gets carried off with a gory compound fracture) who dig up the titular chunk of rock that ends up on Howie’s desk. All these assholes fighting over this valuable thing that was another backbreaking day on the job for some Ethiopians they don’t think much about. I love when Garnett shames Howard for lowballing the people he bought it from.

After that larger-context-establishing prologue (which my friend Matt Lynch swore was an homage to THE EXORCIST until the Safdies said on Twitter “No. But Friedkin is a hero”) the camera zooms into the gem for a trippy light show that at some point transitions to the inside of Howard getting a colonoscopy. The protagonist is introduced from the inside out! You assume that means he’s about to find out he has colon cancer, to give motive for his risky betting spree, but the polyp is quickly determined to be benign. No, I guess they just wanted to show that he’s up his own ass.

There are other bits like this that I think of as tension red herrings. Howie wants to surprise Julia at the apartment, so he goes there just before she does, calls and says he’s headed over. On the phone she sounds nervous that he’s almost there. He watches from the closet as she comes in – there is no movie ever made where this is not prelude to a reveal that she’s cheating on him. Except this one. It turns out she’s in a hurry because she wants to strip down and be sexy for him when he comes in the door. It’s actually very sweet.

Another one is when KG visits the shop and Howie keeps saying not to lean on the counter, but KG doesn’t seem to hear him. When it finally gives in and glass explodes everywhere I thought KG would throw a fit. Instead he takes it as a sign that he needs to buy this gem.

And what about the big parlay (I don’t know what the fuck that is) Howie makes at the climax? He scribbles it, in pencil I believe, on a scrap of paper. Julia doesn’t seem very confident that she can read or understand it, and has trouble conveying it to the casino employee. There’s every possible signal that she’s gonna put all the money on the wrong bet and he’s gonna think he won but he really didn’t. Except that’s not what happens.

The whole thing is an inevitable circling down the drain, yet it keeps surprising. Like, ENDING SPOILER THIS PARAGRAPH, a giant risky bet in a movie about gambling addiction has to be a loser, right? It has to seem touchy, then seem completely lost, then come back, and be an amazing come-from-behind victory— except be lost at the last second. You can’t win something like that unless you deserve it, and no fucking way Howie deserves it. He has to learn a lesson. Except he doesn’t. He wins the bet. But bets aren’t everything – maybe they’re not anything. He loses another way.

As you’ve heard or guessed by now, Sandler is very good in this. But that’s more a case of working with great filmmakers than transforming into something brand new. He’s less cartoonish than in PUNCH DRUNK LOVE probly, but he gets to yell in his funny voice, and there’s plenty of humor. The difference is that it’s a serious cast around him, and it’s stylish filmmaking, as opposed to the standard factory product from his old roommates. And it’s in a context that’s much more grounded and dry and uncomfortable than, you know, CLICK or whatever. (Actually I haven’t seen CLICK. Let me know if CLICK is like this.)

My point is it would be cool if the next Safdies movie starred Rob Schneider or David Spade. Honestly they might be able to pull it off. Or maybe Sandler has an inherent likability that helps us not totally hate this shitbag character – I don’t think that’s true of those other two. If Chris Farley had lived he could definitely do it.

As in GOOD TIME, the familiar actors like Sandler, Judd Hirsch (SERPICO, INDEPENDENCE DAY) and Bogosian blend in naturally with the non-professionals who populate the Safdeiverse. That includes a few celebrities playing themselves, and I like that they’re portrayed in a negative but not broadly comedic light. Garnett is willing to play a silly amount of superstition and The Weeknd reveals himself as a bit of a sleaze.

Julia is the most likable main character in the movie (though on much shakier moral ground than Dinah), and it’s a strong first acting performance for Fox, an art photographer, fashion designer and Playboy model. The guys playing mob enforcers look so authentic I assumed they had to be bail bondsmen the Safdies knew from GOOD TIME, but I guess they were just some tough guys spotted on the street. Similar deal for some of the supporting oddballs. Mitchell and Stewart Wenig, the guys who keep showing up claiming Howie screwed them, got in because the Safdies saw one of them in a diner years ago. That’s also how they found Wayne Diamond, a fashion designer who has a memorable role as a rich gambler credited as “High Roller.” You look at his long gray hair, Elvis shades and tan and you know instinctively this isn’t a shtick, this is an actual guy. There’s that cliche of the sleazy dudes approaching pretty girls and asking if they want to be in a movie – I guess it might be legit if they’re the Safdies and you’re an old weirdo.

“High Roller” comes in when Julia takes Howie’s money to The Mohegan Sun Casino. I didn’t realize that was in Connecticut – not having ever been in a helicopter, it didn’t occur to me that it would make no sense for them to be flying all the way to Las Vegas. But I still thought that was where it was when I was there with some friends last weekend. Gambling doesn’t appeal to me, so I only lost a couple bucks on a slot called Panda Magic and some quarters on the pinball machines LAST ACTION HERO, JOHNNY MNEMONIC, TERMINATOR 2, AVATAR, DEMOLITION MAN and Royal Rumble. Might’ve broke the bank if their NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET machine was working. Oh, and I had a pretty good run on a giant game of Pac-Man, so I understand mojo. I get this movie.

Anyway, every time a helicopter flew over (from Grand Canyon tours) I thought “Is that the BLADE?” I like that kind of tiny character moment – what does it say about this fuckin guy that he can tell his girlfriend “I booked you on a BLADE” – a charter helicopter to a casino – and she’s not surprised or confused?

It’s easy to imagine a version of the Safdies that are interested in all this same stuff but are totally humorless about it. Luckily that’s not the Safdies of this dimension. These are the ones who have an out-of-nowhere scene where Howie tries to get a neighbor to let his son take a shit in his bathroom and the neighbor is a completely unexpected famous person playing himself as a guy who does not want to let Howie’s son take a shit in his bathroom. I won’t say who it is but SPOILER HINT he’s in DIE HARD 2.

On one viewing, if forced to choose, I might have liked GOOD TIME just a tiny bit better than UNCUT GEMS. For me, Pattinson’s character Connie is a more accessible type of dirtbag loser protagonist than Howie. Neither of them is a guy I want to know, but I feel like I understand Connie’s failure more. He’s an idiot hurting his family by trying to care for them in a stupid way, which seems marginally more admirable than pretending to love his family but actually treating them like shit. And the hole and the side holes Connie digs himself into are crazier than just scheming to make big basketball bets. There was a Hogan Family episode about sports gambling, but not one about busting your brother out of a home to rob a bank and then trying to sell LSD to pay his bail. So GOOD TIME is more novel.

But who cares? Both are intense, unique cinematic experiences from the modern masters of gritty urban cringe thrills. Make us some more, boys.

P.S. Another good sad gambling movie is HEAT starring Burt Reynolds, later remade as WILD CARD starring Jason Statham.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 20th, 2020 at 7:42 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

30 Responses to “Uncut Gems”

  1. Interesting you preferred GOOD TIME… For whatever reason, I thought this was next-level for the Safdies. This movie attacked my nervous system, and I loved it. I can absolutely see people not liking it (my uncle despised it), but this rocked my world.

  2. I would like to be excited about this one, as I love low-level crime stories and I enjoy it when Sandler’s aggressive manboy persona is used for dramatic ends. But after careful research I’ve decided I would likely be one of the people Vern mentioned for whom the film would be the most grating thing ever. Cringe is my kryptonite, and this movie sounds like CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM plus IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY multiplied by MOTHER! The nonstop overlapping shouting with abrasive electronic underscore sounds like being trapped in the coat check room at a Russian nightclub. A total nightmare. So I’m gonna let you guys have this one. It’s just doesn’t seem like a flavor I’m capable of enjoying.

  3. Don’t know what I’d think of it now, but I liked CLICK when I saw it about 10 years ago. One of the more ambitious Happy Maddison joints for sure (assuming it actually is one)

  4. This one is going straight to Netflix here by the end of the month under the title THE BLACK DIAMOND (Der schwarze Diamant), which is cool, because I was actually considering seeing it in theatres but now I safe myself the frustration of finding a multiplex nearby that plays such a movie.

  5. My main takeaway is that this really is a movie of it’s moment, regardless of it being set 8 years ago. Sandler’s performance goes a step beyond great film acting, and closer into being a manifestation of all the anxiety, insensitivity and lack of regard for risk/reward management we are seeing in the world today. So being perpetually old and out of touch, of course the Academy doesn’t recognize such modern brilliance as this.

  6. JesseSP – I think most people are with you on that, and I don’t necessarily disagree, I just think GOOD TIME was slightly more my speed. Both are great though.

    Majestyk – “being trapped in the coat check room at a Russian nightclub” is not that far off. I like it.

    onthewall – Good observation about it being of the moment. It would work at calmer times, but it does seem to reflect how the world feels right now.

  7. I had no idea if I would be able to put up with this movie at all (Mr. M, I feel you) BUT I ended up totally going along for the ride and I think it might be one of my favorite movies of the last couple of years.

    I say this as somebody who cannot tolerate Gaspar Noe (sorry, but I lasted about 20 minutes on INTO THE VOID and nope’d out) – but this feels less Noe and more like that late sequence with the fireworks in Harper Valley PTA’s BOOGIE NIGHTS drawn out over a couple of hours. So I think everybody should at least try the first 15 minutes and see if they get into the groove. And if they don’t, then hey, you gave it the ol’ college try and no harm, no foul.

    Sandler is definitely next level great in this, and it’s a fact: his personality and modicum of charm is the only thing that keeps you on this ride. He does a series of absolutely despicable and stupid things, but when some mug beats his face like Iron Butterfly’s INNA GODDA DIVEEDA… well, I felt sorry for him. And based on how I feel about most of his movies, that’s a massive surprise – because with the exception of THE WEDDING SINGER and 50 FIRST DATES, most of his catalog makes me want to vomit.

    And I think Spade could pull the same trick off, but I’m doubtful about Scheider. I don’t think HE CAN DOOO ITT! (Jesus, I hate myself.)

    Also, the entire supporting cast in this is top notch, but I really want to call out Bogosian – almost any other actor would’ve just played the hell out of the menace and anger, but you can feel that Bogosian is actually really hurt by Sandler because after all, they’re supposed to be family. And when the movie starts, it’s obvious that he’s given him a million “one more tries” but damn it if this little bastardo isn’t going to keep on pushing… and still Arno really hates that this is what it’s come to. And he says all that with his eyes – I don’t think he has more than a couple of paragraphs of dialogue in the whole flick. And then what he does in the last 15 minutes is amazing too. He needs to be in a lot more stuff.

    So what I can say is that if you were looking for THE IRISHMAN to feel more like GOOD FELLAS, then you should definitely give this a spin. But if you usually get really stoned before watching a movie, you might want to dial it back a little bit – maybe just a couple of tokes. Just a nickel’s worth of free advice.

  8. I’m…kinda with Majestyk on this one. This thing looks absolutely intolerable to me, at least in part because I’ve worked or done business with dudes like this and wouldn’t want to spend an additional five minutes in their company, never mind two hours. (Some of the scariest conversations I’ve ever had/overheard were when I was doing bookkeeping for a trucking company in NJ that shared warehouse space with a Russian “import/export” company.)

  9. Read a lot of normies declare it the worst thing they ever saw.

  10. Mr Majyestik,

    I know what you’re saying about Curb, I can’t watch it without wanting vomit. But I NEVER felt that way here. I was utterly engrossed with Uncut Gems. I loved every moment of this movie and intend to see it again. In theaters. I haven’t done that for a movie in years.

  11. My favorite thing in the movie is the women. It’s the typical film of this genre where there are only two women in a sea of men, BUT these women get to be actual *characters!*

    There’s a scene where the protagonist and his mistress get into a blow up fight in public and he screams at her and gets into a cab and leaves, typical stuff. Seen it a million times. But then, then something magical happens — the movie stays with JULIA as she walks down the street, humiliated and dealing with the crowd of onlookers, trying to hold back tears as they judge her and shoot catty comments.

    The humanity offered to both Julia and Sandler’s long-suffering wife was revelatory to me. Totally unexpected and unique in this genre full of frail masculinity that most often presents women as either Madonna or whore. Or else, as set dressing.

    Seriously, the above scene and the bit where the wife berates Sandler while wearing her prom dress elevated the movie from an 8 to a 9.5.

  12. I’m waffling on this one. I saw the preview and thought, “Nope, not for me.” Then I heard all the love it was getting and thought, “Oh. Really? Hmm, maybe?” Then Vern’s review told me I was right the first time, but now these comments are making me doubt again. I’ll still probably skip it unless a friend wants to go and I tag along.

  13. Tawdry: I thought Julia Fox did a great job (for her first acting gig especially), but I thought the wife was a little too close to one-dimensional for me. I felt like their kids gave better performances

  14. I think this one would be unbearable as a ten-episode Netflix show, which is where these stories seem to be increasingly migrating these days, but at two hours you get the gist without it overstaying its welcome. I actually thought it’d be shorter, because it seems to go by so fast, but nope, it’s actually 2:15, a full Marvel movie. Still an astonishing amount of incidents, details, layers, subversion, et al packed into that time frame.

    Also, I always like that spectrum of saying that a movie is well-executed, but still isn’t for everyone, rather than a binary of saying that a movie either sucks or is good and someone is too dumb to get it. That’s the flipside of a critic to me: they don’t just have to judge a movie, but they have to convey a *sense* of the movie so the reader can judge for themselves whether it’s up their alley.

  15. This was one hell of a movie. You should all go out and see it. You will glad you did even if you don’t love the movie (though you probably will).

    It’s kind of pointless to compare this with GOOD TIME. They are both great and are on a very similar wavelength. Having said that, and even though it’s only been a few days, this one has stuck with me way more. It felt more intense and there are a bunch of scenes that I can’t get out of my head.

    Sandler was great and it’s criminal that he did not get nominated for the Oscar. This is the kind of performance that awards were made for. It’s actually hard for me to see this movie working as well with anybody else. Just the fact that it’s him playing this character throws you off balance right from the start and he gets better and better as it goes on.

    Vern I’m glad you pointed out the tension red herrings. There’s so many of them throughout the whole thing. Like you are constantly expecting him to lose the opal and/or have it stolen. Or when he’s passing the bag between the windows, I thought he was going to drop it and the cash would blow away like TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE. I definitely thought Julia was going to just take the money and run. And when he brings his kid up to the apartment it seemed like some shit would go down but it turns out she just packed up and left him a nice note. Of course, the neighbour tells the kid about the hot girlfriend but the kid isn’t even bothered, he’s impressed.

    The more I think about it, the more I think this movie is a fucking masterpiece. I agree that the climax was very long. I loved the whole scene but it would probably be boring on repeat. But that ending, holy shit that was perfect!

  16. HALLSY – That’s interesting, I thought his son was upset and disgusted with him after talking to the neighbor.

  17. Hated it. I almost walked out but I paid for the damn thing.

    At least it had a happy ending.

  18. I don’t think his son was impressed, I think he was disappointed in him. To me, that was a scene where it *seemed* like he had dodged a bullet but then it turned out he didn’t. (I loved this movie, by the way.)

  19. Huh, that’s weird. It didn’t play that way to me at all but I could be wrong. I also don’t think the son fully comprehended the situation. Like, he thought it was cool that a hot chick was living there but didn’t understand that she lived there because his dad was banging her. Anyway, I don’t think it really makes much difference…there’s a lot going on in this movie.

  20. HALLSY

    All that AND no one has even mentioned how the whole film is built around the awkward, often strained relationship between American, Ashkenazi Jews and Black Americans.

    I don’t expect that element to make sense to ‘Gentile’ audiences, but I swear, the _entire movie_ is built around this cultural exchange. And the ‘types’ that both minority groups are expected to play by American WASP culture.

    It’s no mistake that the film begins with *Black* Jews. The history of Ethiopian Jews – and potentially, subtextually, the ugly social status afforded to the Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel. The Jewish American and the Black American are linked by their shared fascination with the eponymous rock, brought to them by the subsistence miners with whom both parties share a vague, potential heritage. It’s also no mistake that the interior of the rock provides a glimpse of Immanence – a look into the face of YHWH.

    There is SO much sociopolitical, spiritual shit going on in this movie. The final shot left me gobsmacked and quivering in my seat. It literally plays like a Talmudic text.

  21. Crushinator Jones

    January 22nd, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    One of the things I always appreciate about Vern is the little touches. Like how he highly implies that he went to the Pinball Hall of Fame in Vegas. I love it too – if you’re ever in Vegas, stop over. They have a big selection of Pinball machines including some of the literal rareist in the world, and 20 bucks will take you very far there. Certainly farther than 20 bucks will take you at the craps table unless you’re absolutely red-hot.

    Great review, thanks Vern.

  22. I loved the film and the review.

    Also the character may be the a bad type of human but I liked it that he had a good word for Arno at the family gathering. This was not to his benefit since Arno was not there to see it. It was just Howard being decent.

    My take on the kid’s reaction to the hot girl story will be that he is confused about what to feel. He is in puberty so the hot girl part of it makes him excited but he is also a son (and I think he understood the gist of it) so he doesn’t get as excited as he would have been if his father was single. Obviously the incident made an impact. I really liked that reaction, the way he sat at the car silently.

  23. I would not have watched this in the theater were it not for a buddy inviting me, but I’m really glad he did.

    What struck me most is how the Safdie Bros have utter confidence in all aspects of their narrative and aesthetic vision, from the framing, camera work, score, editing, casting and directing of actors, dialogue, etc. Like Kubrick, Lynch, Malick, Bergman, or Refn, they are not just shooting a script or story but creating a visceral, fully emotionally immersive experience. I felt like I was BEING JOHN MALKOVICH-style inside the mind and body of a gambling addict spinning from high to low back to high. One minute, the walls are closing in, the next minute I am king of the world, and every time I fall ass-backwards out of peril, the only logical next move is to let it ride and jump back into peril. Because the alternative is a bland, colorless life. Through sheer command of story and of, I felt complete empathy with Sandler, grasping and feeling persuaded by the inner logic of his utterly self-destructive sequence of choices.

    Not an easy watch, but I loved it. Brilliant.

    p.s. Sandler was a personal favorite of mine as a kid. My parents turned me on to SNL during the Carvey-Lovitz-Hartman-Hooks-Jackson run, but my peak SNL period was the Sandler-Spade-Farley-Myers-Carvey-Hartman one. Sandler’s bizarre manchild shtick has always been divisive, but I think he is a true comedic genius. He reminds me a lot of Eminem in that his artistic sensibilities and pocket are pretty weird and idiosyncratic, but somehow for various reasons it found a broad audience and has since been a victim of his own past success and conflicting expectations– people who want him to grow or stay the same or try new things. Sandler’s best comedies are utterly bizarre, almost inexplicably, with their talking Penguin hallucinations and Carl Weathers’s giant wooden hand. Sandler has always done it his way, and the results have been mixed, but he’s definitely an auteur and a one-of-a-kind in his own way.

  24. Also, I definitely thought the kid was feeling disgust and shock at the revelations about his dad. Sandler’s daughter knows what’s up with him – that chicken leftovers microwave scene conveys a ton (with minimal dialogue) about the dyadic relationships among Sander, Menzel, and their daughter. I got the distinct sense that the daugher’s age, sensitivity level, and strong relationship with her longsuffering mom are such that she very much gets what’s up with dad and his bullshit and is 100% #teammom. In contrast, the boy is very much #teamdad, which the film shows us in juxtaposition of Sandler coming in to discuss the game with his son who’s shooting nerf hoops in his room. This is a very gender self-segregating family / subculture and gender roles and double-standards are implicit but very strong. We see this at whatever the Jewish holiday get-together dinner/evening thing is. It’s completely gender-segregated, and the dudes watch sports and smoke and drink, while the chicks try on old dresses and coo, ooh, and tsk about Menzel fitting into her bat mitzvah dress or whatever.

    Bottom line then, the boy worships his dad as a successful businessman, friend of Kevin Garnett, and all around ass-kicking, cool, provider dad. And he models himself after his dad, following his interests. Then he learns very harshly what his mom and sis have been perceptive enough to know all along: city dad is a whole other person, nothing like suburbs dad.

  25. This is already streaming on Netflix here so I went back and watched the scene with the kid. I would say we are all wrong but I think I am slightly less wrong than you guys. The kid is definitely not disgusted but does not know what is going on. He even says “is he talking about mom”? The kid does get upset but it’s only after his dad snaps at him.

  26. will have to give another look when it’s on video here in the colonies

  27. Was anyone else reminded of the DeNiro movie Night and the City? That’s a movie I love and it has Alan King in it too, who I also love.
    I think the son definitely figures it out about the girlfriend by the time he gets back in the car, because they took care to get a good shot of him looking miserable as they drive away. I was frustrated because all Sandler had to say was, “That guy’s confused, the hot girl lives in the apartment next door to mine. I see her in the hall sometimes”. How hard is that?
    I think that for someone like me who grew up in Nebraska, the world of gamblers, leg breakers, and loan sharks that we see in movies and TV seem like a genre and a bunch of tropes, but the persistence of this kind of story tells me that it is probably a real way of life for a lot of people in the cities. When I see the leg breakers or Eric Bogosian’s character show up, I know about them just from the context of movies I’ve seen. I guess a lot of people probably know them from people they really know. The guy who plays Sandler’s bookie wears suits that seem designed to advertise that he’s a bookie as much as the long coats, canes, and big fancy hats advertise that someone is a pimp.
    Speaking of Bogosian though, he was great. His big stony face can convey the whole universe. He’s in the Anthony Bourdain/Lou Reed face family that I think maybe only happens in New York.

  28. Tawdry, I’d like to hear more of your sociological analysis about the various kinds of Jewish identity in this movie… maybe you could write an essay?

  29. Where’s that Tawdry essay? :)

    Just kidding but seriously T if you ever feel inclined to speak more on the film as a Talmudic analysis I would be very interesting

  30. Bit of a non sequiter comment here, but just wanted to shout out a new film making the arthouse rounds now (just caught it yesterday here in Chicago) called FULL TIME (A PLEIN TEMPS). It pulls off the neat trick of putting together a movie that’s every bit as stressfull and ennervating as GEMS and GOOD TIME, but in an everyday setting with much lower stakes, at least by cinematic standards; the protagonist spends the whole movie dealing with job bullshit and public transportation hassles and having to raise her kids on her own, and doesn’t spend a minute outrunning cops or gangsters. I’ve never seen another movie that’s been able to create such a similar feeling of unpleasant tension that the Safides do here, to the point where I almost walked out midway through because I wasn’t sure I could take any more, but in the context of the main character getting yelled at by her boss, or rushing home to get her kids on time so she doesn’t piss off her babysitter. Remarkable recreation of a very specific feeling in a completely different setting. Strong recommendation to check it out if GEMS appealed to you, and to avoid at all costs if it didn’t.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>