Maximum effort from Sandler will go a long way with the team that gave us Robert Pattinson’s finest performance in ‘Good Time.’
Last week, Adam Sandler was in the news for his forthcoming Netflix-funded team up with Jennifer Aniston in Murder Mystery. But if his Netflix projects aren’t for you and you tend to enjoy the films where Sandler operates outside of his comedic comfort zone, you’ll appreciate this news more: Deadline confirmed that he’s signed on to star in Uncut Gems, the next Safdie Brothers movie.
God help him, Sandler has taken maximum advantage of the deal with Netflix. You know what, though? Good on him. If you get creative carte blanche to make movies with your friends, I say go nuts. Even if those movies aren’t for me, people seem to like them. And that’s okay. In fact, if you’re interested in his Netflix popularity and how it relates to filmmaking, you’ll want to check out James Shapiro’s excellent exploration of the subject.
Uncut Gems was announced last year, originally set to star Jonah Hill. While it looks like Hill has moved off the project due to schedule conflicts, that original announcement featured a brief synopsis. The film is “an original story set in the unscrupulous, fast-paced world of the New York City Diamond District.” That’s a bit slight to form much of an opinion about the nature of the story. However, that “unscrupulous” word is mighty appealing.
Let me explain what I mean.
The project has some creative heft. The Safdies, who have teamed up with A24 and Martin Scorsese, are co-writing the script with regular collaborator Ronald Bronstein. They write exactly the kind of roles that will give Sandler a chance to show off some of his legit dramatic skill.
It’s more than just nice to see Sandler in roles where he isn’t playing his classic goof-ball, movie star alter ego. With his slacker, comic schtick in full swing, it’s easy to forget Sandler has world class acting chops. Last year, with great success, he teamed up with Noah Baumbach to make The Meyerowitz Stories. It was a critical favorite and well-received. The film competed at Cannes and featured one of Sandler’s finest performances. And, of course, there’s his dramatic work in the deservedly lauded Punch-Drunk Love.
His turn as the sad clown in Funny People is also a stand-out performance. While he does play a fictionalized version of himself, his acting shows that he’s capable of layering that goof-ball character with as much soul as we want. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sandler’s comedy beats. But, the acting in that movie capitalizes on his image. He uses it to give us a deeper character in what might otherwise be a conventional film. The meta-ness of it is a bit on the nose, but my gosh he is engrossing in the film.
The Safdie Brothers’ most recent film, Good Time, was also produced by A24 and stars Robert Pattinson with a career-best performance as Connie, a dirt-bag prepared to use anyone to accomplish his small-scale get-rich-quick schemes. It’s also a great example of how the Safdies make movies that our own Alex Vitti describes as narrative pressure cookers.
The film is all tension as the high-personal stakes thriller unfolds over the course of a single day. It’s very difficult to consume passively as he burns burn through other people’s lives. It’s all just his desperate attempt to escape the inescapable conclusion to his shitty story. Your relationship with Connie evolves from suspicious to full-blown revulsion.
The effect is unsettling and not for everyone. But, god damn, it is intense.
That’s what makes the use of “unscrupulous” to describe Sandler’s character in Uncut Gems so juicy. Sandler’s dramatic chops in an unsavory role written by the Safdies? Give me maximum effort Sandler in a role like Connie’s. He’s gonna shine. It’ll be great.
In between now and then, the Safdies are potentially remaking 48 Hours. There’s no production timeline reported. But, it can’t come soon enough.