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

Everybody Knows

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Everybody Knows

Everybody Knows hands us a plot that is hard to follow but intriguing enough to hold us. Because there is no way to describe the plot details without ruining the suspense, let’s start with a short description of writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s family drama.

Laura (Penelope Cruz), who moved to Venezuela when she married, has come home to Spain for the wedding of her sister. With her are her teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and her very much younger son. Her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) remains in Venezuela looking for a job. The bearded middle-aged Paco (Javier Bardem), an old friend from long ago, is one of the guests.

Laura’s daughter Irene immediately locks eyes with a young man. When she leads him to play with risk in the clock tower, we know Irene is deeply driven by a streak of rebellion. Quite suddenly, during the wedding and the early scenes of the movie, she is kidnapped and the wedding itself turns into the scene for the whole complex plot.

We watch the relationships unfold while wondering whether the kidnapper is part of the assembled crowd. A sudden storm knocks out electricity and bathes the whole in candlelight. How can a murder mystery in candlelight be anything but fun?

As you watch the beauty of the wedding, the church and the guests, the question of who the kidnapper is takes second place. We know director Asghar Farhadi will give us that answer when he’s ready.

Against this grand portrait of a Spanish location, you have a scared mother, a missing daughter and the mother’s relationship with the wedding guests. All are delivered by good actors in a somewhat murky story script. Why does no one report the disappearance of young Irene to some authority? The only possibility is that this provides the backdrop for the revelations that are unfolding gradually. We can’t learn who the villain is too early. Irene’s disappearance offers us the time and tools to explore the relationships among the others. The wedding itself becomes a tool that gives us the feel and character of the church, the minister, the wedding, and the town. Toss in the crisis and an arriving husband, stir the plot, and we sit there enjoying the fine acting of the whole cast set in a beautiful place.

In addition to an odd plot, we face another problem common to today’s movies. The two bearded Spanish men look alike; the two sisters and Paco’s wife look alike. It’s too easy to excuse this as family resemblance. When a writer drops us into a crowded wedding in an unfamiliar country, he shouldn’t give us the added burden of casting a crowd of guests and principals who look alike. We forgive him because the pace is brisk and he gives us a good story full of actors who deliver the story so well that we’re glad we came – even if we can’t tell them apart.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Everybody Knows
Word Count : 495
Running Time: 2:13
Rating : R
Date : March 3, 2019