A more serious Sandler


Image © Columbia Pictures

Growing up in the late 2000s, I saw a lot of Adam Sandler movies. Most of them were awful. His movies hold some of the worst ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and for good reason. Grown Ups, Jack and Jill and Don’t Mess with the Zohan are all examples. Even as a kid, these movies made me sad. All my parents talked about were the “good” Sandler films that came out in the ‘90s. When I finally got around to watching his good work, it only made me miss Adam Sandler, the actor.

His early films were mostly comedy, but his personality gave every performance a punch. Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore aren’t Citizen Kane, but they introduced me to Sandler and what he could do on screen. After seeing his comedy work all my life, I was blown out of the water when I saw him in Punch-Drunk Love.

I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my God, Adam Sandler is in a REAL movie.” 

I was blown away at the fact that Sandler was in something other than a comedy and good at it, too. His role of the anxious and emotional loner was given an extra edge with Sandler’s comedic talent. Watching this movie made me excited to see Sandler in anything that didn’t involve him dressing up as his sister, making fart jokes or doing a terrible accent.

When the trailer for Uncut Gems was released, I was beyond excited. I didn’t know what the movie was about and I didn’t care. I saw Adam Sandler in a serious role in a movie produced by a company I love. For weeks, all I could think about was Sandler’s character. I only watched the trailer once to not spoil anything, so my thoughts raced to any kind of connection I could make to his character.

The movie itself wasn’t fantastic, but I was still just excited to have seen Sandler in a role he’s never taken on. His personality seeps into his character, Howard Ratner. Ratner is a gambler that’s tens of thousands of dollars in debt to a loan shark. The film is an extremely stressful experience as Sandler’s character is in a constant cycle of having the money but then gambling it away again. Every time I was biting my nails, but I still couldn’t blame the character because Sandler made him so believable.

Sandler is now 53 years old, and I hope that with age, he is able to get even better roles. His experience really helped sell the character of Ratner in Uncut Gems. From the first glance of him on screen, you can tell that he’s falling behind. He’s an older man selling gold chains to a new generation. Ratner talks, dresses and dates young, all signs that point to the character grossly overcompensating as to avoid being left behind. I personally believe that it was in Sandler’s best interest that he wasn’t this character in his 30s. The wrinkles on his face are genuine and make the character that much more believable. 

Uncut Gems isn’t Sandler’s only serious role. In 2017, he starred in The Meyerowitz Stories, a comedy-drama that was nominated for the Palme D’Or, the Cannes Film Festival’s most prestigious award. Although it isn’t as nail-biting as Uncut Gems, in this film, Sandler tackles another serious topic. 

The Meyerowitz Stories is about adult siblings trying to get along while still living in the shadow of their father. This provides another example of Sandler being able to bring a character alive with his personality. 

On Jan. 16, Sandler and the directors of Uncut Gems released a short film (six minutes) about two New York street performers. Being shot in the middle of the city, the tourists that served as extras most likely didn’t even know they were in an Adam Sandler film. The actors themselves were painted gold and silver. While this probably isn’t the film that Sandler promised to make “so bad on purpose” if he was snubbed for the Oscars, it’s nice to see that he’s still interested in making fun projects. 

I may be way too interested in Adam Sandler’s filmography, but really, all I’m trying to do is forget about the movie Grown Ups 2.