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Adam Sandler’s “Uncut Gems” is the most honest movie about gambling addiction

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As I started watching the 2hr 15m new Adam Sandler movie, I didn’t have high expectations. I was anticipating one of the light, typical (sometimes obvious) comedies by the famous actor and producer.

I was drawn to it mainly by the curiosity of watching Kevin Garnett – one of my favourite basketball players – act in front of the camera.

It’s not my intention to offer film reviews, and I will try to avoid any spoilers. But I will say that “Uncut Gems” is not a comedy, and it’s not that much about precious stones either. It’s an intense, Scorsese-like frenetic triller instead; a dark drama about the life of a compulsive gambler, ‘Howard Ratner’ portrayed by Adam Sandler.

Unlike most Hollywood movies discussing the theme, this film does not glamorize or polish the life of a gambler. On the contrary, the main character does not have any particular skills. He is not the brightest person in the room, and the plot does not revolve around any masterplan the protagonist is secretly putting in motion to solve his problems.

Also, there is not the slightest sign of redemption in sight. Throughout the whole movie, as you can’t help but empathise and feel bad for Ratner, he simply does not think nor act rationally. He is naive and so far down the hole of financial debts he dug, that he doesn’t even realize gambling is his real issue. As far as he is concerned, his headaches are caused mainly by his creditors, and he believes that gambling is the only practical solution for his troubles. Because «he’s got a good feeling about his next bet». He has collected all the mystical clues and is ready to cash in this time.

This aspect in particular reflects why gambling addiction has one of the lowest level of awareness of any addictive behavior. As matter of facts, studies show that only 5% of problem gamblers acknowledge their issues and seek help, while merely 1% are the ones that actually receive treatment. 

And although “Uncut Gems” doesn’t offer a complete representation of what it’s like to live with gambling addiction (as the disorder manifests in different ways for different people) the protagonist illustrates all the main signs of the compulsion such as lying, chasing losses, engaging in risky behavior over and over again seeking the sensation of a thrill, and having extremely emotional or impulsive reactions.

It’s also worth mentioning that this movie is not riding the wave of bad sentiment against the industry seen nowadays (especially in Europe), and it’s not trying to put a sinister light on gambling. Yet, it is an intense and powerful movie I encourage you to watch, especially if you work in the industry. The ending is indeed a true gem and will not disappoint.

Here’s the movie trailer if you want a preview:

Maurizio Savino