Of all the things you’ll probably never expect to see or read, Adam Sandler winning a Best Actor Oscar statuette for a dramatic performance will probably rank high up on that list. And yet, he could very well do just that after turning in what critics have deemed as the best work of his career in Uncut Gems.
When people talk about Adam Sandler, the most common thing he’s associated with are his low-brow comedies of the 90s and 2000s. The Happy Gilmores, the Billy Madisons, the Grown-Ups’ and what have you. While those films range from pretty okay to downright awful (looking at you Grown-Ups and The Ridiculous 6), they’re all wildly successful at the box-office or whatever streaming service they’re on.
And yet in between all the lazy laughs and cringeworthy groans he’s delivered over the years, he’s also managed to show people that he’s also a great – and criminally under-watched – dramatic actor.
When film critics talk about Adam Sandler, they skip past all the comedic stuff and rave about his weirdly shallow pool of auteur-driven work and how he’s weirdly one of the most gifted and flexible actors around.
Of the dozens of films he’s made, Sandler has only done six that could be classified as a drama – 2002’s Punch Drunk Love, 2004’s Spanglish, 2007’s Reign Over Me, 2009’s Funny People, 2017’s The Meyerowitz Stories, and 2019’s Uncut Gems.
And yet in just those five movies, he’s shown a surprising amount of dramatic range for a bloke who’s best known as an obnoxiously loud comedy bro. It seems like when he really wants to, Sandler can channel that loud and brash comedic energy into some great emotional stuff.
In Punch Drunk Love, he plays a soft-spoken man who has severe anxiety and suffers from emotional abuse from his overbearing sisters; Reign Over Me sees him play a man suffering from grief after losing his family on 9/11; Funny People features him as a dying stand-up comedian; and Uncut Gems has him playing a seedy yet smooth-talking thief who gradually loses it.
Even when his drama movies don’t quite work, Sandler is usually the best part of them, which speaks to the underappreciated acting flair he brings to the screen. It’s almost a shame that he does movies like Grown Ups due to the massive paycheck because the world could do with more Adam Sandler dramas.
If Adam Sandler does end up winning the Best Actor Oscar statuette for Uncut Gems, it would fittingly be the greatest pay-off to the three decade-long joke that’s been his rollercoaster career.
Always be in the loop with our snackable podcast breaking the biggest story of the day. Subscribe to It’s Been A Big Day For… on your favourite podcast app.