Uncut Gems (2022), written by Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie, provided Adam Sandler’s most serious and intense performances to date. That all started with a strong screenplay. Let’s analyze it.
- Draft Read: 4/17/15
- Type: Spec
- Page Count: 94
- Reading Speed: Medium
- Setting(s): NYC, Berlin
- Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple days
- Genre(s): Thriller
- Theme(s): Addiction, Religion, Family, Marriage, Entrepreneurship
- Protagonist Change: None
Uncut Gems is a cool movie in which the protagonist as well as many of the supporting cast members are supremely lame. There are some odd matchups here. For example, A 50-something out-of-shape jeweler hanging out with an NBA player and his entourage.
Conflict and drama. Every scene is loaded with it, mostly due to Howard’s unchecked bad decision-making, seemingly caused by his gambling addiction. How about Pages 73-77, in which the interior security door jams and Amare (later changed to Kevin Garnett) and his crew get locked inside. Unnecessary? Perhaps. But it certainly adds to the already-tense and almost cringeworthy scenes.
Some scenes do feel drawn out. For example, three pages (Pages 81-81) can be boiled down to one message: The opal is only worth a fraction of what Howard thought it would fetch at auction. That could have been achieved in a few lines of dialogue, at most.
There are two areas where I felt the script could have been improved. First, the antagonist is ambiguous. Is it Howard’s brother or his hot-headed henchman? Or is it Howard’s gambling addiction itself?
Perhaps more importantly, Howard makes just about every bad decision available. It’s like one of those maps that shows you all of the different ways your life could go and he takes the fastest path to death. Which brings up the broader point; how has Howard lasted this long? These types of scripts, where everything happens in a few days, often feel unrealistic and prevent the viewer from emphasizing with the film’s core messages. Two classic films with a similar concept (a person trying to get out of debt) are A Hole in the Head (1959) and the Marx Brother’s classic A Day at the Races (1937). Note that both of these films are comedies, whereas Uncut Gems is anything but.
All in all, it’s worth noting that the script’s weaknesses are minor.
The plot follows Howard, a jeweler, as he dives deeper into his gambling addiction. As noted, Howard makes one bad decision after another and has to deal with the consequences, which get progressively worse.
Besides Howard, the film has essentially an ensemble supporting cast. Two minority communities, African American and Jewish, are featured prominently.
Dialogue & Pacing
There are many references to Yiddish/Jewish culture, which is an obviously rare but interesting addition to any screenplay.
No notes to share In regard to pacing.
It’s tricky to judge the emotional impact of this script. Certainly, if you know someone or are yourself struggle with a gambling addiction, this movie could hit close to home. For everyone else, I’m not sure that the emotional impact is there, partly due to how outlandish the plot is. With that said, the movie received very favorable reviews, so it certainly has made an impact on many. Without question, it’s a gripping, somewhat cringy and definitely edge-of-your-seat type of film.
Best Part of The Script
Act 3 is the definition of suspenseful writing. Pages 104-119 (the ending) are high-intensity and are worth a read.