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The indie film set a record for its production company and features Adam Sandler in a dramatic role that some suspect could put him in the 2020 Oscar race

By Dana Rose Falcone
January 03, 2020 01:09 PM
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Uncut Gems Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems
| Credit: A24

Uncut Gems really shined.

Despite receiving a C+ Cinemascore from audiences on opening night, Adam Sandler’s latest film Uncut Gems earned positive reviews from critics and gave its production company A24 its biggest opening ever when the indie picked up $18.8 million in its first week of wide release. The movie, set in New York City’s Diamond District where Sandler’s character Howard runs a jewelry shop, also received a 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Uncut Gems follows gambling lover Howard as he bets it all on a rare opal he bought from Ethiopia. Howard lends the gem to NBA star Kevin Garnett, who considers it a good luck charm, and must get it back in order to pay off his debts around the city, including one to his father-in-law that could end with Howard’s death if he doesn’t pony up. But Howard immediately bets any money he collects in hopes of turning it into a bigger profit — which only makes his problem worse.

Adam Sandler (L) and Kevin Garnett stand for the national anthem prior to a basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on December 17, 2019 in Los Angeles, California
Adam Sandler (left) with his Uncut Gems costar Kevin Garnett
| Credit: Allen Berezovsky/Getty

With everything going on, Howard puts being a father and a husband on hold and sleeps with his shop employee Julia (Julia Fox), who he believes cheated on him with musical artist The Weeknd at a nightclub.

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Critics have hailed the Safdie brothers’ suspenseful, anxiety-inducing drama as 53-year-old Sandler’s best work and even speculated that it could earn the comedian an Oscar. Playing a neurotic sports bettor/jeweler allowed fans to see a more serious side of Sandler that’s been on rare display since his Saturday Night Live days, but it’s one the actor trained for since he studied at NYU.

“I was never doing comedy monologues in school. I was always doing The Indian Wants the Bronx,” Sandler told Variety. “Oh yeah. I was doing stand-up on my own, but when I was in school, I was just doing serious stuff.”

While Sandler’s Uncut Gems character isn’t exactly likable — between the hustling, high-stakes gambling and cheating on his wife — the movie beat the odds to pull in over $24 million since its Dec. 13 limited release (followed by its Dec. 25 wide release), making it a true gem for Sandler, the indie genre and moviegoers alike.

Uncut Gems is in theaters now.