by Harvin Bhathal, News Writer
It’s difficult to make a film well-received by both mainstream audiences and more critical viewers, especially with a sense of originality. In the case of Uncut Gems, the directing and cinematography alike attempt to please both of these groups. This story about a jeweller who places a bet that could change his life forever is shot in a totally original way. The Safdie brothers (Josh and Benny Safdie) use consistent movements and fast cuts throughout to create a sense of urgency and intense realism in each shot, making each film this duo directs stand out.
But standing out isn’t always a positive.
Although the film contains moments of calm as a means to balance the riveting pace, it is offset by an ill-fitted style of cinematography. This isn’t to say the cinematography of the film as a whole is an issue, just in certain scenes. Despite being visually stimulating, it just doesn’t mesh with the film’s concept.
This poorly executed story about an individual addicted to gambling, whose priorities are painstakingly mismanaged, is not worthy of the artistic endeavour the Safdie brothers went for. It gives the impression of a loading scene in a video game like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto that’s only real focus is the action of actually playing the game. Here in the film, any scene that does not involve action feels like a wait for the next exciting thing, rather than pushing the story forward. Video games that emphasize action don’t always put enough effort in the story, and while the effort of Safdie brothers is present in Uncut Gems, it does not come to fruition.
In and of itself, this is not a negative. If incorporated well into the fabric of a film, this artistic cinematography will make it memorable. But because the story did not warrant this idea, it made for scenes that were equivalent to those that gamers skip to get back to the action of gameplay.
Furthermore, continuing the video game theme is in moments where Howard Ratner (played by Adam Sandler) is faced with making difficult decisions. The film feels similar to a choice-based video game where each choice has a subsequent consequence. It’s as if Howard progresses through his given options, and a decision triggers a transition and consequence.
Whether it was intentional or not, the parallels between Uncut Gems and action-based video games are obvious. With interactive television shows and film-style video games, it was only time until a film came along that resided in between this dichotomy. Overall, Uncut Gems is still worth the watch, but it’s artistic style just does not gel with the story.