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Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems

It is my great pleasure today to write a review of the worst movie I have ever seen. This will be a special challenge because the actors, the directing, and even the premise are all good. Here’s the problem. For the first half hour, we watch Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) as he runs through streets, buildings, and underground tunnels. Yes, the photography is good and no, we learn little about who he is or what he is doing.

At long last, a box containing rare opals embedded in a rock arrives. From this point forward, that small rock is the trigger for all the action that unfolds. As the movie goes on, impatience becomes the ruling emotion for the audience. What unfolds is a constant battle among various men who want the jewels as they chase each other through underground passages while screaming obscenities.

It’s not an exaggeration to report that the F-word and the S-word are shouted in nearly every sentence that comes forth from every man and woman. I have no problem with those words, using them in my own impatient moments, but in this movie, they drown out all conversation and obliterate the possibility of our learning what the movie is supposed to be about. When I asked audience members afterward how many times those words were shouted, they replied between 200 and 400 times in two and a half hours. It’s the constant screaming of these words that prevents us from understanding who the characters are in relation to each other. All yelled at high pitch, those words obliterate the plot.

Then there’s the problem of a hideous string of racial insults that flow through the swearing. We know already that all the men in the plot are selfish, cruel, and criminal. What we don’t understand is why there is no counter force at all. Is there one man with a decent motivation? No. One man who isn’t a criminal? No. They are so alike in language and behavior that we can never figure out which men have what intentions.

The material destruction of people and buildings occurs throughout the noise. Who are the good guys? There aren’t any. Are all these men and two women fighting, killing, and screaming over that one rock? Yes. If you go because of the host of positive reviews, ask yourself if you can find one speck of decency in the entire movie.

Who to blame? Writers Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie? Directors Benny and Josh Safdie? Actors Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel and a host of others who create the crowd of villains who yell throughout the movie to create what can only be called a nightmare? Soak up the jewelry store where a lot of this unfolds and you will understand what’s coming in the final scenes.

Over two hours of unrelieved swearing and brutality await you and rumor has it that Adam Sandler will be an Oscar nominee for this role. Ouch.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Uncut Gems
Word Count : 502
Running Time : 2:15
Rating : R
Date : 12 January 2020

Little Women

Little Women

If you are thinking of skipping Little Women, think again. It has been read in Louisa May Alcott’s book and seen in movies by all ages ever since it came out in 1868. Now, as a gift to all of us, Greta Gerwig has assembled and directed a superb cast in a new version that is packing theaters. It is both a tribute to the book and a salute to families of any era. Just go.

This story may have been written five decades ago but director Gerwig has dropped it into the present as she develops the sisters who are both intelligent and emotional in their search for their futures. We care about every member of this family she paints.

Saoirse Ronan creates Jo in a way so affecting that she could be a portrait of any strong woman who knows exactly what she wants. Jo is the one born to write and we are absorbed by how she thinks and what she does. When she confronts her publisher and stands up for herself, she becomes a woman who could ring true in any era. Saoirse Ronan’s creation of Jo is riveting. She draws us in and we sit in a theater audience that is rooting for her all the way. We can feel it. The entire audience has been pulled into the story and that is just where they want to be.

There isn’t one weak casting spot in the whole film. Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Elza Scanlen, and the men in smaller roles who want to marry them are winners. Even Meryl Streep contributes a fine small part. Laura Dern creates the fascinating non-judgmental mother who eventually shows us her own inner torment. She has raised four girls who are growing into fine intelligent women, all with inner drives that propel them to the goals they are choosing in the culture of their time. Now she can turn to herself.

Jo is the writer forever; Meg and Amy want to marry good men and have families; Beth, the youngest, is a talented piano player who watches her older sisters carefully for lessons in how to grow up. We feel great admiration for Louisa May Alcott. When she wrote the book in 1868, she created a tale for her generation. What an accomplishment to have written a story that has drawn readers for a full half century.

And now, in 2020 as movie lovers pack theaters, we credit both Alcott’s book and Greta Gerwig’s movie as crowds love it once more. Four teenage sisters living with their mother in Concord, Massachusetts in 1868 have been recreated in a way that enriches rather than lessens the original. There is no weakness in any of the women or the men. Each of these accomplished actors absorbed the inner emotions created by both the original author and today’s recreator. Alcott’s book became universal and Greta Gerwig’s movie is becoming just that in 2020.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Little Women
Word Count : 500
Running Time: 2:14
Rating : PG
Date : 5 January 2020

This review was posted on January 5, 2020, in Drama, Romance.