I resent this movie. When I heard it wasn’t nominated and everyone was upset I trusted public outcry because the Academy honestly has terrible taste and is old white men who are so out of touch they don’t see great art even when it’s right in front of them. They picked Crash for best picture over Brokeback Mountain (never forget) and also Green Book. Every person was like, “It’s so good but it’s stressful.” Maybe it’s because the world is literally on fucking fire right now but I did not appreciate this movie at all. I resented it. Why? What is the point? I don’t understand. I like art that even attempts to have something to say. What was that here? I’m definitely having a personal reaction, I think tonight is a culmination of being scared, stressed, and alone and I was excited to watch this movie as an escape and it just made everything feel worse. It took me way longer to watch than the run time because I kept having to pause it and do something else because it was so stressful and unfun.
This movie is about a jeweler, Howard Ratner (played by Adam Sandler) who’s addicted to gambling. That’s it. The entire movie is just him making mistake after mistake, digging himself deeper and deeper into these holes. He was awful to almost everyone around him-dismissive, abrasive, abusive, condescending, demanding, loud, etc. etc. etc. He seems to only be happy when he’s winning a bet. It made me so fucking stressed. And I get it, I was there, the whole speech to Kevin Garnett (it was very cool he was in this) about how he’s not an athlete and this is his way assert dominance and react to the world that’s mistreating him, and I also think there’s a specific thing about Jewish men and basketball that was interesting to explore. I heard all that and I get it but it simply doesn’t justify/make worth all the other shit to me. I am open to maybe this movie is a specifically Jewish experience and I didn’t get it, that’s the only way I can understand the value in what just happened.
When you’re getting stripped and stuffed into the trunk of your own car at your child’s play maybe it’s time to re-evaluate and say, “Is this working for me?” There was not a single ounce of self-reflection in the entire two hours and fifteen minutes. I hated his relationship with Lakeith Stanfield, why would you give away the Rolexes? People didn’t even seem to want them. And trading Kevin Garnett’s ring for money? Trade your Knicks ring! I always assess risk for my decisions and he consistently made the absolute shittiest choices. It became laughable. It’s incredibly difficult to have empathy for a character like that, and to be invested in them. He wears out any goodwill the viewer might have for him in fifteen minutes and then the movie just keeps going. Maybe that’s the point? That some people are irredeemable? But does anyone really not know that, and need this movie to tell them that?
Idina Menzel plays his wife Dinah and she was incredible, the scene where he’s asking for a second chance and she laughs at him and tells him she’s disgusted by him and wishes she would never have to see him again? That’s really one of the only times she gets to speak more than a few words but she does such a good job the entire movie of conveying so much emotion with very few words. Like when she runs out from the play to unlock the trunk and sees him. The look in her eyes alone lets us know the depth of her shock, disappointment, unsurprise. Sometimes a character like this is terrible in business and to their wife but they’re a good dad. Nope. He’s an awful dad. He doesn’t spend any meaningful/quality time with them, actively ignores them, then when he decides he wants to, sort of talks down to them (his daughter in particular) for not being warmer to him.
Usually I use plot to guide me in these paragraphs, but there’s literally no plot to go through. Howard has a jewelry store in the diamond district in Manhattan and he owes literally every person in the movie money and whenever he gets ANY he just keeps betting it and it stops mattering at some point if he’s losing or winning because he’s just going to bet it all again anyway. He never gains anything in the movie. Even when he wins he loses because his debt is unending because he’s addicted to gambling. I just realized, I’m sorry if you are addicted to gambling or know someone who is, I hope I don’t sound like a huge shit.
Howard is cheating on his wife with a girl that works at his store, Julia De Fiore (played by Julia Fox-and boy is she ever) and he’s letting her live in an apartment in the city he owns. He treats her like shit and she loves him so much and will do anything for him. At one point he hits her smoothie out of her hand spilling it all over her and she gets a tattoo of his name. Just to paint a little picture. He’s so irredeemable that when he dies you’re not even sad about him, you’re just sad for Julia.
The movie opens in an opal mine in Ethiopia where someone is really fucking hurt, their leg is splayed open to the bone and everyone’s crowding around trying to see and two guys take this opportunity to find and take I guess a large raw opal embedded in the stone. Then the camera zooms in on the opal and we see lights and the universe, and slowly it’s clear we’re now in a body, and that body it’s Howard’s colon. That’s how we meet him, it’s like they’re foreshadowing-this is a character who is full of shit. Also, this visual connection is one of the only layered shots the movie has and even this, the choice to make the gem come from Ethiopian Jews, felt like an attempt at meaning that was larger but ultimately lazy and they did no work for.
This gem becomes his holy grail, he thinks it’s worth 1000-3000 dollars a carat and that it’s hundreds of carats, he thinks it’s a million dollar stone. There’s so many twists and turns it’s not really worth it to mention, Kevin Garnett comes in the store and is very taken with the stone, he wants to buy it but Howard has promised it to an auction house, but gets pressured into lending it to him for a night, then it’s hard to get back and he fights The Weeknd, all this shit happens. Meanwhile, every time he turns around there are different people trying to get the money he owes them and they range from persistent but non-threatening to violent and scary. He gets “roughed up” a couple of times but always kind of gives some back or manages to de-escalate the situation.
The final scene is these scary guys have come to get the money after he finally sells the gem to Kevin Garnett but he manages to smuggle the money out, gets Julia a Blade (uber for helicopters) to the Mohegan Sun casino to place all 165,000 of it on a bet for the Celtics game that night. He ends up trapping the scary guys in the security glass entrance that all jewelry stores have for the entire basketball game. He’s yelling, he’s up he’s down, but finally they win-he wins the bet, over a million dollars and lets the guys out of the glass and they immediately shoot him in the head. Which honestly, by this point, felt like a relief. The entire first half to even two thirds is just this assault of noise and stress and movement and people, there’s no beauty, no hope, no meaning- we’re just in this endless hamster wheel of stress and meaningless terrible decisions. They could use this movie to teach people Nihilism, that I would understand. But then ironically it would have a point.
Again, I take full responsibility for how much I hated it, if I had seen it when it came out I would have been in a theatre in New York, probably on a rainy day where I snuck CVS candy into the theatre in my backpack and I’d watch it and think, “Oh wow, nothing is going right for him!” and then feel saddened by his death and extrapolate some greater, larger meaning. I would then sneak into another movie and watch it and leave tired and happy and ride the train home buzzing with a weird glow that only comes from sitting in a shitty soft recliner in front of a 24 foot tall screen and being immersed in darkness and sound. I’m sure I would have been on the same page as the rest of you and thought it got “robbed” at the Oscars. But, unfortunately for all of us, I watched it right now. Alone in my dad’s laundry room on an air mattress at 4:00am while feverishly checking Twitter to see online a revolution happening and feel so overwhelmed with guilt and sadness that I can do nothing about.
I’m sorry but what the hell. I feel like the filmmaking had so much technical skill but no artistic vision. This movie felt so hollow to me, like what an eighth grader would put on a word map if you asked him to script a movie. “And then he gets shot in the head at the end.” Okay does he? Great, yes let’s do that. Even though he wins? Yes, ok I got it. Great. It feels very rudimentary to me. Also CLEARLY, they’re good at constructing tone, making the audience feel something, but they only chose a single emotion for the entire film and hit the fucking gas. It felt like someone who knows for a movie to be deep there needs to be visual indicators of symbolism so they made it look cool, and nothing else. What else is there here? What themes, what layers, what risks? For a movie whose protagonist is obsessed with risks this movie took none. He’s a gambler and he’s in debt then he gets killed because he’s in debt? Thank you. Thank you for your contribution. And the poster is in The Godfather font?? Are you fucking kidding me?
This movie is a bad movie that’s very well made. Great actors, great set design, great wardrobe, great everything but zero heart. There’s nothing at the core of this movie. I have a gem for you. You know those geodes that have the beautiful crystals surrounding a hollow? Well this movie is exactly that-a lot of sparkly beautiful things surrounding a big fat nothing. A hole where anything else should be.
The more I look at stills from the movie the angrier I get so I’m just going to end it here. I love Adam Sandler, especially in serious roles but this was not it. I feel bad for him because he did so well but it’s not his fault. He can act the shit out of anything, this was just a sinking ship he got put on. I’m sorry I hated it so much but I did. I don’t need a movie to make me feel bad for absolutely no reason. Make me feel bad for any number of reasons, anything you want! But have a fucking point, know what you’re trying to say. Even if it’s just that “people are like this” what is your opinion on that? Guide me through this experience you’ve created.
It feels like they just wanted to meet Kevin Garnett so they made this whole thing up and it just did way better than they thought but the whole time they’re both like, “Really?? This?? They like this?” I liked Gaspar Noe’s Climax for God’s sake so I know it’s not just that I can’t “handle” feeling bad. This movie is bad without any art!! There has to be art in it! You moving the camera fast over pretty things isn’t art!
Literally one of the only things I like is that they bill the cast in order of appearance, so all those miners get first billing. It’s like that in the movie credits and on the IMDB page which is rare. I like that. Lol also there was a cameo from John Amos. Loved that. And the guy who hired the people who killed him, who also married into his family and they share tense dinners after he’s paid someone to punch him in the face is Armenian! Eric Bogosian as Arno.
It felt like there was bait for anti-semitism in a way that felt a little uncomfortable at times- his last name being Ratner, of course that’s a name people have but of all the names you could have chosen that’s the one you go with for the Jewish jeweler? Also at his daughter’s play the coins coming out of her mouth?? This movie walked a fine line between being so specific in a portrayal and showing a type of person vs. feeding into negative stereotypes about Jewish people in a harmful way. On the other hand, it was cool to see him in a lot of black spaces because I feel like that relationship isn’t usually explored.
My friend Rachel said she felt like it was a modern day take on Death of a Salesman and that is the only thing that has made me feel better about it. I don’t think I liked that play either but that would at least make sense. Also my friend Leah said she felt the focus was that it made the viewer understand what addiction feels like and that’s an interesting perspective and makes me value it a little more.
1 out of 5 Furby chains, would not masturbate again.