Have you ever been to a fancy party with Josh and Benny Safdie? They stick out like sore thumbs. If they had it their way, they would arrive to the Oscars via subway and climb up to the Dolby from belowground. The New York directing duo have taken it upon themselves to keep alive the mantle of gritty and raucously interior inner-city films built by spiritual kin like Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee. The pair have continuously put out contemporary, raw and untethered work over the last decade, each film building on the traits of the prior, but never once sacrificing their innate grittiness.
An early NPR review of their film “Daddy Longlegs” stated: “The Safdies film with handheld cameras, an obvious affection for New York and its denizens, and
a script that includes so much structured improvisation that it’s hard to imagine any of the dialogue was actually written down.” The Safdies built on the momentum of that riveting film when they put out 2017’s “Good Time,” a no-holds-barred thriller that provided shock and awe and a devastatingly seductive and deceptive performance by Robert Pattinson.
But 2019 has given us the brothers’ most full-throated, most wholehearted, most complete New York vision yet — “Uncut Gems.” Adam Sandler delivers a truly spectacular performance on the complete opposite end of the passive intropath he played in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch Drunk Love.” Lakeith Stanfield is eerily excellent, and Eric Bogosian, The Weeknd and Kevin Garnett round out a cast only the brothers could put together for the ride of an absolute lifetime.
The movie, like all of the Safdies’ work, pulls none of its punches. You are best off simply expecting the unexpected. And after you see “Uncut Gems,” ask the person next to you what they thought — if they are repulsed, they probably would not want to go to a party with the brothers. It probably just isn’t their speed.
Timothée Chalamet can be seen in “The King” and “Little Women.”