In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Uncut Gems, we look at important motifs that help us understand the film.
- Adam Sandler – Howard Ratner
- LaKeith Stanfield – Demany
- Julia Fox – Julia De Fiore
- Kevin Garnett – himself
- Idina Menzel – Dinah Ratner
- Eric Bogosian – Arno Moradian
- Judd Hirsch – Gooey
- Keith William Richards – Phil
- Mike Francesa – Gary
- Jonathan Aranbayev – Eddie Ratner
- Noa Fisher – Marcel Ratner
- Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye – himself
Important motifs in Uncut Gems
The Opal Gemstone
The uncut black opal that serves as the title’s namesake is a multifaceted motif. On the surface, it represents Howard’s drive for success, as he sees it as the key to solving his mounting financial problems. However, it also symbolizes a prominent theme in the film: the illusion of wealth and success. This is seen in the scene where he convinces basketball player Kevin Garnett that the gem is a lucky charm, although its power is illusory. The gem embodies Howard’s compulsive desire to gamble, even when the odds are against him, reflecting his self-destructive behavior. At the same time, it serves as a mirror to his chaotic, fractured life, as chaotic and multi-faceted as the gem itself. The closing moments of the film also bring clarity to the importance of the gemstone and how it speaks to the dangers of capitalism and chasing money.
Sports and Gambling
The motif of sports and gambling is pervasive in Uncut Gems. Howard is constantly placing high-stakes bets on basketball games, which mirrors his risk-taking and reckless behavior in his personal and professional life. The adrenaline of the game, the uncertainty of the outcome, and the potential for a big payoff are all elements that reflect Howard’s own life. His bet on the Celtics game, where he stakes everything on Garnett’s performance, is indicative of his inability to control his gambling addiction and his willingness to risk everything for a win, emphasizing his self-destructive tendencies.
The auction serves as a motif for Howard’s constant hustle and his inability to play by the rules. He manipulates the auction process by having his girlfriend place a high bid to increase the perceived value of the gemstone. This reflects his overall approach to life, where he’s always looking for shortcuts and ways to cheat the system for his benefit. The failed auction symbolizes his flawed strategy and its consequences. The scene where he’s forced to buy back his own gemstone at a higher price than he sold it for illustrates the futility and self-defeating nature of his actions.
The Glass Box
The glass box in which the gem is kept symbolizes Howard’s life. He sees himself as a valuable gem, unique and precious, but he’s also trapped in a cycle of his own making, much like the gem in the box. The scene where he locks Garnett inside the store’s security doors with the gem, unable to let it go despite the risk, reflects his own trapped state, unable to break free from his addictions and self-destructive behavior.
The Door Buzzers
The malfunctioning door buzzers in Howard’s jewelry shop are a subtle but powerful motif. They represent his lack of control over his life and his business. The buzzers frequently malfunction at crucial moments, causing tension and conflict. They are a metaphor for Howard’s chaotic life, where things are always going wrong at the worst possible time. The final scene, where the door buzzer fails again, leading to his demise, underscores the motif’s symbolic significance.
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