I’ve held this opinion for several years, not exactly sure what to do with it, but in his Uncut Gems performance, Adam Sandler’s sensual, kvetching charisma is undeniable. The time has finally come for me to speak my truth: Adam Sandler is so hot.
In the Safdie brothers’ highly anticipated film, Sandler stars as Howard “Howie” Ratner, a Diamond District jewelry dealer with a sports-gambling addiction and impending separation from his wife. In dire straits interpersonally and financially (he owes some angry people a lot of money), Howard doubles down on a rare Ethiopian opal he has acquired and plans to sell at auction, but he gets tragically distracted, first by former NBA star Keven Garnett, who hopes to buy the stone from him. Really, though, he only has himself to blame. Howard is sort of a classic fool: The more dramatically his life unravels, the harder he tries to hold it together, until all he amounts to is a shoddily Scotch-taped-together mountain of rakes he’s stepped on and banana peels he’s slipped upon. Little goes his way, even when he scores.
If you don’t find any of this hot so far, you might not find yourself sexually attracted to Howard, but if you do, read on. Always emotionally in the red, Howard is not afraid to love and is a people-pleaser both by trade and temperament. He is not a man I would want to date but is sexy for other reasons, like his passion for gauche beauty and uncomplicated relationship with his leather jacket. He also, most alluringly, wears earrings. Uncut Gems comes out in December, but as you may have already gleaned from the film’s trailer, the main thing Howard loves to do is go around town making deals. His face really lights up when he’s betting on a Celtics game. One thing he doesn’t like to do is control the volume of his voice. He’s not the perfect man, but Sandler finds the pathos, a diamond in the rough.
The constituency of hot women who are madly in love with Adam Sandler is represented in the character of Julia (played by the excellent Julia Fox), his employee and girlfriend. There’s one scene I find particularly compelling, and it’s when Howie is at his most pathetic, crying about being a fuck-up, tissues shoved up his bloody nose, his face a bruised mess (spoiler alert: Adam Sandler gets punched in the face a lot), and Julia, who is also me, coddles him like a baby, then shows him her new butt tattoo that says “Howie.” Some people need to see the world through rose-colored glasses, but I just want to see it through the transition lenses that Howard wears throughout the film. Take me from day to night, daddy.
Unlike most middle-aged Hollywood actors, Sandler did not earn his hot-man accolades by growing a beard that hides most of his face and portraying kings, presidents, or CEOs but by playing horny sad sacks (Jewish) and being a good guy in his downtime. He was already well on his way to lovably neurotic mensch status with wonderful performances in Punch-Drunk Love (2002) and The Meyerowitz Stories (2017), a movie I have spent a combined seven hours watching, mostly owing to Sandler’s poignant turn as a down-and-out dad with a bum leg (I also have a thing for Ben Stiller). In interviews, Sandler manages to come off as a normal person with hopes and fears he’s not afraid to express. For instance, in a recent Q&A with Brad Pitt, who’s been given serious leading-man roles for practically his whole career, Sandler gushes, “I love you. I gotta tell you, when you tell me I did good in Uncut Gems, that feels good.” This willingness to be vulnerable to criticism, to be hurt and accept praise, is also very attractive to me.
Pivoting away from playing dirtbags, dummies, and a man who is trying too hard to date Drew Barrymore has been good for Sandler, too. Did I ever think I’d be publicly recognizing that the guy who starred in such lousy films as 2004’s Spanglish and 2006’s Click (a film the New York Times generously described as “usual”) has the sexual magnetism of a young Clive Owen stealing your girl? No, I did not. Another way of looking at this is that Sandler has grown into his beleaguered man-child aesthetic and is now improving the form, or at least taking it in surprising directions. To paraphrase Uncut Gems, he has strong “placing bets all over town with MY money” energy, and that’s sexy as hell.