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Uncut Gems is a 2019 American crime thriller film directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ronald Bronstein. The film stars Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel and Eric Bogosian. The film tells the story of Howard Ratner (Sandler), a Jewish-American jeweler and gambling addict in New York City s Diamond District, who must retrieve an expensive gem he purchased in order to pay off his debts. Filming took place from September to November 2018. The original score was composed by Daniel Lopatin. Uncut Gems was Sandler s first widely released film since Pixels in 2015.
Uncut Gems had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2019. It entered into a limited release in the United States on December 13, 2019, before a wide release on December 25, by A24. The film received critical acclaim, particularly for Sandler s performance, which several critics described as the best of his career. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2019.
In 2010, Ethiopian Jewish miners retrieve a rare black opal from the Welo mine in Ethiopia. In 2012, gambling addict Howard Ratner runs KMH, a jewelry store in New York City s Diamond District. Howard struggles to pay off his gambling debts, which include $100,000 he owes to Arno, his loan shark brother-in-law. His domestic life is split between his wife Dinah, who has agreed to divorce after Passover, and his girlfriend Julia, a KMH employee.
Howard s business associate Demany brings basketball star Kevin Garnett to KMH. While he is there, the opal, which Howard had smuggled in, arrives. Garnett becomes obsessed with it, insisting on holding onto it for good luck at his game that night. Howard reluctantly agrees, accepting Garnett s 2008 NBA Championship ring as collateral.
After Garnett leaves, Howard pawns the ring, placing a six-way parlay on him playing extraordinarily well in that night s game, which he does. The next day, Demany says that Garnett still has the opal, angering him. Howard is ambushed at his daughter s school play by Arno and his mafia handlers, Phil and Nico. His winning bet should have won him $600,000, but Arno placed a stop on the bet, as it was made with money Howard owed him. Phil and Nico strip Howard naked and lock him in the trunk of his car, forcing him to call Dinah for help.
Howard meets Demany at a nightclub party hosted by R&B singer the Weeknd to retrieve the opal, but learns that Garnett still has it. Howard finds Julia snorting cocaine in a bathroom with the Weeknd and, believing they were having sex, gets into a fight with him. Feeling betrayed, Howard confronts Julia and demands that she move out of his apartment.
Garnett returns the opal before an auction, offering to purchase it for $175,000, but Howard refuses, as he believes it is worth much more. Garnett demands his ring back, but Howard lies that it s at his house. After Garnett leaves in dismay, Howard berates Demany for allowing Garnett to hold onto the opal for so long. Incensed, Demany quits, trashing Howard s office. After an awkward Passover dinner, Dinah rejects Howard s plea to give their marriage another chance.
Just before the auction starts, Howard discovers the opal has in fact been appraised for significantly less than his initial estimate of $1 million. He convinces his father-in-law Gooey to bid on the gem to drive up the price, but the plan backfires when Garnett fails to top Gooey s final bid. A furious Gooey gives Howard the opal before Arno, Phil, and Nico assault him outside the auction house. He returns to KMH, bloody and in tears. Julia comforts him and they reconcile.
Howard learns Garnett still wants to buy the opal, so he pays him at KMH with cash. Although Howard could repay his debt to Arno, he asks Julia to put the cash on a three-way parlay on Garnett having a strong performance. Arno, Phil, and Nico arrive at KMH just before Garnett leaves, but before they enter Howard s office, Julia escapes. The thugs find and threaten him, while she goes by helicopter to the Mohegan Sun casino to place the bet. Arno tells Howard to call Julia and cancel it, but he refuses. Furious, the three attempt to pursue her, but Howard locks them between the store s mantrap. He watches the game on television, taunting the three by pointing out their court-side mob associates while they remain trapped.
Garnett s Boston Celtics win the game, earning Howard $1.2 million. Ecstatic, he frees the three thugs, but an enraged Phil shoots Howard in the face, killing him instantly. Arno protests before attempting to escape, leading Phil to shoot him dead as well. Julia leaves the casino with Howard s winnings as Phil and Nico loot the store.
- Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, a Jewish jeweler and gambling addict
- Lakeith Stanfield as Demany, an intermediary who recruits clients for Howard
- Julia Fox as Julia De Fiore, Howard s employee and girlfriend
- Kevin Garnett as himself, a professional basketball player for the Boston Celtics who takes a liking to Howard s rare black opal
- Idina Menzel as Dinah Ratner, Howard s soon-to-be-ex-wife
- Eric Bogosian as Arno Moradian, a loan shark and Howard s brother-in-law
- Judd Hirsch as Gooey, Howard s father-in-law
- Keith William Richards as Phil, Arno s quick-tempered henchman
- Tommy Kominik as Nico, Arno s henchman
- Jonathan Aranbayev as Eddie Ratner, Howard s older son
- Noa Fisher as Marcel Ratner, Howard s daughter
- Jacob Igielski as Beni Ratner, Howard s younger son
- Abel The Weeknd Tesfaye, as himself
- Mike Francesa as Gary, Howard s bookie
- Wayne Diamond as himself, a wealthy fashion designer and gambler who takes a liking to Julia
- Josh Ostrovsky as Noah, Howard s cousin
- Mitchell Wenig as Larry, a man whom Howard owes money
John Amos, Ca$h Out, and Trinidad James appear as themselves, with Amos appearing as Howard s neighbor and the others as acquaintances of Demany. Natasha Lyonne and Tilda Swinton have voice appearances as a Celtics staff member and an auction house manager, respectively. Pom Klementieff has a cameo as Lexis, a friend of Julia.
Josh and Benny Safdie conceived the film in 2009, and approached Adam Sandler to star; however, Sandler s manager rejected the film s script before Sandler got a chance to read it. In May 2016, it was announced that the Safdies would direct the film from a screenplay they wrote alongside Ronald Bronstein. The film s executive producers were Emma Tillinger Koskoff and Martin Scorsese, and it was produced by Elara Pictures and RT Features. In May 2017, Jonah Hill joined the cast, with Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Sebastian Bear-McClard joining as producers and A24 distributing.
In April 2018, Sandler replaced Hill. In August 2018, Eric Bogosian and Judd Hirsch joined the cast. In September 2018, Kevin Garnett, Lakeith Stanfield and Idina Menzel joined, with Netflix acquiring international distribution rights. Kobe Bryant, Amar e Stoudemire and Joel Embiid were also considered for Garnett s role. In October 2018, it was revealed that The Weeknd, Trinidad James and Pom Klementieff had joined the cast. Klementieff s scenes, apart from a brief cameo during the film s opening credits, were cut from the final edit. Principal photography began on September 25, 2018, in New York City, and concluded on November 15, 2018. The film was shot by Darius Khondji on 35 mm film, using long zoom lenses.
Daniel Lopatin composed the original soundtrack. He also recorded several songs with the Weeknd for the film, which went unused; however, he has production credits on the Weeknd s album, After Hours. The score was released on December 13, 2019, on CD and vinyl and digital streaming services.
The opening and closing sequences were inspired by the gemological photomicrography of Eduard Gübelin and Danny J. Sanchez.
Josh and Benny Safdie s Jewish upbringing was essential to their crafting of the film. The story was heavily influenced by their father s time working in the Diamond District as a salesman. When creating the character of Howard, Josh and Benny Safdie said they were heavily influenced by Jewish humor and actors from the 20th century, wanting Howard to encompass Jewish stereotypes proudly and treat them as a superpower. The Jewish concept of learning through suffering would be important for the character of Howard throughout the film.
The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2019. It was also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2019. It was released in limited theaters in the United States on December 13, 2019, and had a nationwide release on December 25, 2019. It was released internationally on Netflix on January 31, 2020, and began streaming in the United States on May 25, 2020.
In its limited opening weekend, the film made $537,242 from five theaters for a per-venue average of $107,448, the highest ever for A24 and the second-best total of 2019. It then made $241,431 in its second weekend. The film made $5.9 million on the first day of wide release (including $1.1 million from previews on Christmas Eve), the highest single-day gross in A24 s history. It went on to make a total of $18.5 million over the five days ($9.6 million in the weekend), finishing sixth at the box office. In its second weekend of wide release, the film made $7.5 million, finishing eighth. With $50 million, Uncut Gems was A24 s highest-grossing film domestically until it was surpassed by Everything Everywhere All at Once in May 2022.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 343 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site s critical consensus reads: Uncut Gems reaffirms the Safdies as masters of anxiety-inducing cinema—and proves Adam Sandler remains a formidable dramatic actor when given the right material. Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 91 out of 100, based on 56 critics, indicating universal acclaim . Audiences polled by CinemaScore during the film s limited release gave it an average grade of A− on an A+ to F scale; upon going wide, it earned a C+ score, as well as an average 2 out of 5 stars on PostTrak.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian calls the film a cinema of pure energy and grungy voltage, and the Safdies make it look very easy. This will be the year s most exciting film. Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times: Directed with relentless tension and diamond-hard intelligence by Josh and Benny Safdie (who earlier this month won directing honors from the New York Film Critics Circle), Uncut Gems is a thriller and a character study, a tragedy and a blast. Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film a grade of A, calling it a riveting high-wire act, pairing cosmic visuals with the gritty energy of a dark psychological thriller and sudden bursts of frantic comedy . Jake Cole of Slant Magazine gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, writing, As in Good Time, Uncut Gems finds the Safdies working in a genre rooted in the grimy, character-oriented crime films of the 70s. Radheyan Simonpillai of Now commented that there s so much propulsive, forward momentum even when the characters never get anywhere. Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, Many will agree that this is Sandler s best performance, and the Safdies will finally move from the fringes of the commercial film scene to somewhere closer to the center.
In her round-up of the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, Wendy Ide of The Guardian ranked Uncut Gems as one of the best films of the year, calling it Audacious, thrilling and exhausting and Sandler s remarkable performance as one of the best performances of the year, and praising the cinematography. Kevin Garnett s performance was also praised, with Brady Langmann of Esquire calling it the year s best breakout performance, and Alan Siegel writing on The Ringer that it was one of the best acting performances by an athlete ever.
The film was highly rated on many critics end of year top lists, and Metacritic compiled those mentions and ranked the film 5th overall for 2019. Uncut Gems was ranked by The A.V. Club as the 92nd-best film of the 2010s.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result|
|Casting Society of America||January 30, 2020||Feature Big Budget – Comedy||Francine Maisler||Nominated|
|Critics Choice Movie Awards||January 12, 2020||Best Picture||Uncut Gems||Nominated|
|Best Director||Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Adam Sandler||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie||Nominated|
|Detroit Film Critics Society||December 9, 2019||Best Actor||Adam Sandler||Nominated|
|Best Use of Music||Uncut Gems||Nominated|
|Florida Film Critics Circle||December 23, 2019||Best Original Screenplay||Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie||Won|
|Best Score||Daniel Lopatin||Won|
|Golden Raspberry Awards||March 16, 2020||Razzie Redeemer Award||Adam Sandler||Nominated|
|Gotham Awards||December 2, 2019||Best Feature||Uncut Gems||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Adam Sandler||Nominated|
|Breakthrough Actor||Julia Fox||Nominated|
|Independent Spirit Awards||February 8, 2020||Best Feature||Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Sebastian Bear-McClard||Nominated|
|Best Director||Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie||Won|
|Best Male Lead||Adam Sandler||Won|
|Best Screenplay||Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie||Won|
|Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award||December 8, 2019||Best Editing||Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie||Runner-up|
|National Board of Review||January 8, 2020||Best Actor||Adam Sandler||Won|
|Best Original Screenplay||Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie||Won|
|Top Ten Films||Uncut Gems||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle||January 7, 2020||Best Director||Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie||Won|
|San Diego Film Critics Society||December 9, 2019||Best Actor||Adam Sandler||Nominated|
|Best Director||Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie||Won|
|Best Original Screenplay||Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie||Runner-up|
|Best Editing||Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie||Runner-up|
|Satellite Awards||December 19, 2019||Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical||Uncut Gems||Nominated|
|Best Actor – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical||Adam Sandler||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||2021||Best Thriller Film||Uncut Gems||Nominated|
|Seattle Film Critics Society||December 19, 2019||Best Picture||Uncut Gems||Nominated|
|Best Director||Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Adam Sandler||Nominated|
|Best Film Editing||Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie||Won|
|Best Score||Daniel Lopatin||Won|
|St. Louis Film Critics Association||December 15, 2019||Best Actor||Adam Sandler||Won|
Reaction to award nominations
Critics and commentators considered Sandler to be a viable contender to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Uncut Gems. During a December 2019 interview with Howard Stern, Sandler promised to make the worst movie ever if he did not win an Oscar for Uncut Gems and said, If I don t get it, I m going to … come back and do one again that is so bad on purpose just to make you all pay. That s how I get them. When nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced in January 2020, Sandler did not receive a nomination. Reacting to the announcement, Sandler congratulated Kathy Bates—his former co-star in The Waterboy (1998)—on her Best Supporting Actress nomination, and wrote, Bad news: Sandman gets no love from the Academy. Good news: Sandman can stop wearing suits.
|Plot||With his debts mounting and angry collectors closing in, a fast-talking New York City jeweler risks everything in hope of staying afloat and alive.|
|Awards||Awards, 27 wins & 94 nominations|
|Directors||Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie|
|Writers||Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie|
|Stars||Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel|
|Produced by||Michael Bartol,Sebastian Bear-McClard,Oscar Boyson,Eli Bush,Catherine Farrell,Valentia Fisher,Irfaan Fredericks,Jacob Jaffke,Anthony Katagas,David Koplan,Scott Rudin,Martin Scorsese,Emma Tillinger Koskoff|
|Music by||Daniel Lopatin|
|Cinematography by||Darius Khondji|
|Film Editing by||Ronald Bronstein,Benny Safdie|
|Casting By||Francine Maisler,Jennifer Venditti|
|Production Design by||Sam Lisenco|
|Art Direction by||Eric Dean,Rocio Gimenez|
|Set Decoration by||Kendall Anderson|
|Costume Design by||Miyako Bellizzi,Nawaal Hendricks|
|Makeup Department||Kristen Alimena,Gary Archer,Craig Carter,Francesca Di Turi,Kaela Dobson,Olivia Galley,Sincere Gilles,Kharisma Gray-Gonzalez,Allison Imoto-Suh,Janelle Leone,Sabana Majeed,Jess Manning,Belinda Manwaring,Marissa Masella,Jason Milani,Mia Neal,Ann Pala,Kyra Panchenko,Stephanie Pasicov,LaWanda M. Pierre,Liz Printz,Melissa Roberts,Susan Schectar,Gale Shepherd,Jennifer Suarez,Elisa Tallerico,Yuki Watanabe,Robin Watson-Hamilton,Aaron Worman|
|Production Management||Nizaam Ackerman,Stephanie Blackwood,Charlie Dibe,Andrew Hauser,Mark Sean Haynes,Mary Beth Minthorn,Perri Silver|
|Second Unit Director or Assistant Director||Scott Bowers,Dale Butler,Neil Daly,Amy Lauritsen,Nick Notte,Marquis Sheppard,Luke Tomalin Sherman,Douglas Van Rooy,Melinda Ziyadat|
|Art Department||Desiree Akyurek,Steven Brower,Rob Cagen,Christopher Carcich,Robert S. Dressel,Cindy Fain-Vreeland,Jesse Gertsen,Matthew Guarriello,Erin Hodson,William J. Hopper,Kristen Lindberg,Robert Ludemann,Leanne McLaughlin,Catherine Miller,Jonathan Mitchell,Paige Mitchell,Deneice O Connor,Julie Peters-Haymes,Melissa Nikki Reid,Meriam Rodriguez,Kelly Sgueglia,Alexcia Sundra|
|Sound Department||Brian Bowles,Scott Cannizzaro,Kristin Catuogno,Chris Chae,Mark DeSimone,Nathan Dubin,Tim Elder,Tom Fleischman,Anton Gold,Gavin Hecker,Skip Lievsay,Kyle Miller,John-Paul Natysin,Chris Navarro,Jason Oliver,Jay Peck,Helmut Scherz,Warren Shaw,John St. Denis,Michael Sterkin,David Tirolo|
|Special Effects by||Jimmy Hays,Caleb P. Johnson,Jason Palisi,Adam I. Rochester Sr.,Roy Savoy|
|Visual Effects by||Glenn Allen,Jasmine Carruthers,Fangge Chen,Unggyu Choi,Eran Dinur,Silas Fischer,Dulany Foster IV,Richard Friedlander,Daniel Gardiner,Brian Haimes,Lucien Harriot,Namjin Heo,Ji Hye Kim,Alex Noble,Delaney Porter,Manuel Riedl,Patrick Rossi,Ben Zylberman|
|Stunts||Ricky Barksdale,Eric J Carlson,Blaise Corrigan,Peter Epstein,Mariusz Kubicki,Josh Lakatos,Luke Lesko,Anthony Mecca,Victor Plajas,Stephen A. Pope,Jeremy Sample|
|Camera and Electrical Department||Olga Abramson,Tiffany Armour-Tejada,Brian Baez,Okhela Bazile,Maceo Bishop,Eric Boncher,Ramulas Burgess,Rick Carmona,Chris Cochran,David Conelli,Andy Day,Paul Dickover,Sean Feehan,Sean Folkl,Omkar Gauchan,Eddie K. Goldblatt,Christopher T. Gould,Christopher F. Graneto,Billy Holman,Jason Jaeger,Zorinah Juan,Zac Kind,Rachel Kopel,Abby Levine,Robert Ludemann,Charlie Marroquin,Jonathan Edward Mazzei,Daniel James McCabe,Andre McLane,John J. Moers,Ali Mohamed,Zeus Morand,Christine Ng,Mau McMillan Sebastien,Chris Silano,Basil Smith,Troy Sola,Michael Sterkin,Andrew Sweeney,Bayley Sweitzer,Leo Tozzi,Craig Vaccaro,Chris Vermaak,Ethan Weinstock,Melinda Ziyadat|
|Casting Department||Alex Anlos,Marissa Blair,Bonnie Lee Bouman,Adam DeLisi,Debbie DeLisi,Dann Fink,Abby Harri,Courtney Hart,Eleonore Hendricks,Michele Mansoor,Aidan Mclellan,Alan Scott Neal,Clara Peterson,Molly Rose|
|Costume and Wardrobe Department||Mary Caprari,Jillian Daidone,Carol Deelay,Carmegie Dupuy,Alexzandra Granath,Esther J. Han,Lyndsea Lamarr,Tristan Makka,Missy Mickens,Eric S. Miller,Mordechai Rubinstein,Jessica Zavala,Elana Zelman|
|Editorial Department||Adrian Alvarez,Luca Balser,Nate Davis,Chris Gennarelli,Jennifer Klockner,Cara Manise,Brett Meyers,Morgan Miller,Elias Nousiopoulos,Megan Rumph,Damien van der Cruyssen,Brian Woos|
|Location Management||Dan Dickerson,David Fox,Jordan Hoffman,Ben Hyams,Samson Jacobson,Kara Janeczko,Leila Nurse,Denise Ogaz,Eric Papa,Danny Perry,Brad Reichel,Morgan Roche,Sean Traynor,Matthew H. Wiesner,Brad Willett,Sara Furey|
|Music Department||Maureen Bailey,Sebastian Bear-McClard,John Boggs,Conor Abbott Brown,Mario Castro,Missy Cohen,Matt Cohn,Brian du Fresne,Gatekeeper,Rob Gedelian,Chelsea Kendall,Eli Keszler,Daniel Lopatin,Claire McCahan,Maxwell J. McKee,Rebecca Myers,Daniel Parks,Aaron David Ross,Emily Schubert|
|Script and Continuity Department||Sasha Vitelli,Zorinah Juan|
|Transportation Department||Michael Bortner,Liam Ferguson,Paul J. Mauro,Gabe Turiello|
|Additional Crew||N Namdi Andersen,Wendy Bernanke Appelle,Brian Baez,Orges Bakalli,Randall Balsmeyer,Cassandra Barbour,Darah Barnes,Dave Bennett,Nick Bommer,Lisa Callif,Kay Carambia,Eric J Carlson,Betty Chin,Collin Creighton,Corey Deckler,Katy Dia,Quinn Dooley,Ben Elias,Scott Ettin,Tina Gumble,Tammi Jean Haynes,Olivia Kavanaugh,Michael T. King,Kendall Kleinberg,Cristian Lazarus,Yana Collins Lehman,Marina Pervak Lejsek,Louis Leshner,Mei C Li,John Paul Lopez,Paula P. Manzanedo,Jonathan Edward Mazzei,Jenny McCabe,Meredith Metcalf,Matt O Shea,Justin Penman,Julie M. Philips,Stefan Puente,Loni V. Rodgers,Adam Rodner,Sarah Sarandos,Rachel Schneider,Meagan Sevier,Adam M. Stone,Cat Stone,John Anthony Torres,Eva Vedock,Greg Wyrick,Tesh Yana,Inman Young|
|Thanks||Joseph Alishaev,Izzy Aranbayev,Ben Baller,Mary Bronstein,Michael Chaiken,Elliot Eliantte,Joel Embiid,James Feldman,Ryan Feldman,Andrew Finkelstein,Gabe Jacobs,Greg Joswiak,Michael Kaplan,Jonathan Loughran,Terry McGinnis,Brendan McHugh,Christopher Messina,Rick Nektalov,Sara Newkirk,Adel Nur,Adel Future Nur,Terri Pitts,Bradley Rainey,Emily Ratajkowski,Karen Rhee,Sara Rossein,Robert Melvin Rubin,Noah Sacco,Ava Safdie,Cosmo Safdie,Murray Safdie,Scott Sandler,Nicole Schneider,Sarah Self,Wassim Sal Slaiby,Colin Stark,Sean Price Williams|
|Genres||Crime, Drama, Thriller|
|Companies||A24, Elara Pictures, IAC Films|
|Plot||Alongside filmmaker Josh Safdie, composer Daniel Lopatin sat down with us to detail the creative discoveries behind his synth-packed score for ‘Uncut Gems.’|
|Stars||Daniel Lopatin, Josh Safdie, Matt Cohn|
|Thanks||Matt Cohn,Daniel Lopatin,Eliza Ryan,Josh Safdie|
|Keywords||music documentary,behind the scenes,music composer,promotional documentary,moog synthesizer|