Actor in Focus: Adam Sandler

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Adam Sandler has, undoubtedly, become a controversial figure over the almost 30 year span of his acting career. However, after Uncut Gems reminded audiences that he really can give an incredible performance (similar to the way that the Safdie’s previous film, Good Time, proved Robert Pattinson’s acting skills to his many naysayers), Sandler seems to have become a point of interest to many film fans. So why exactly does a clearly gifted performer choose the roles that he does?

The simple answer could be money, but let’s give the Sandman a little extra credit – looking back, his career really isn’t as bad as many seem to suggest. Good roles are peppered throughout, including many of his comic turns. A majority of critics seem to have forgotten his turn as a family man and chef in James L. Brooks’ beautiful romantic-dramedy Spanglish, his odd yet hilarious performance in The Waterboy or even his very strong performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed Punch-Drunk Love, which was for a long time the one Sandler film that seemed unanimously accepted as his finest moment.

Now, Sandler may not choose the most challenging roles for himself, or the most challenging scripts, but all of his films remain linked together by one element – his wonderful screen presence. There’s certainly a uniquely warm magnetism to the man when on screen, no matter what he’s doing. There’s good reason that so many of his comedies feature romantic focuses or sub-plots, from 50 First Dates to the aforementioned (and more grounded) Spanglish. Sandler has always carried with him a certain charisma that is rarely found, the type of charisma that truly makes him a star as opposed to just another Hollywood actor. He may be lazy with his choices sometimes, but his performances themselves are almost always charming, even if they become repetitive from one film after the other.

Another overlooked Sandler turn – and another of his serious dramatic roles – is in the post-9/11 New York drama Reign Over Me, in which Sandler plays a man left introverted and distraught after the death of his family in the 9/11 attacks. The film has comic elements (don’t worry, it is nowhere near as bad as that sounds), and falls into cliche a little too often. But it is a truly beautiful film that is thrusted forward by the lead performances from Sandler and co-star Don Cheadle. Again, Sandler can be seen as the centre point and the reason that the film’s emotional resonance really come together and elevate the film as a whole.

There’s no denying that Sandler has appeared in a few duds – they seem to change from person to person, depending on the chosen sub-genre – but Sandler’s hated position in Hollywood seems to reflect the current general attitudes toward Hollywood comedies. Let’s not sugar coat this, it is incredibly negative, and sometimes deservedly so, especially seeing when he takes on a serious role such as his appearance as Howard Ratner in Uncut Gems was so highly acclaimed. There’s a reason that the fading love for the gross-out comedy in the early 2000s also led to a switch of attitude toward Sandler and his films, and it seems a shame that it continues to hang over his career, even if Hubie Halloween may have reminded us of just how bizarre some of his Netflix co-produced works are.

Sandler’s latest film, Hubie Halloween, is streaming on Netflix now – view the trailer below:

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First year film student, writer (on film) and poet. I recently published my first poetry collection, Portrait of a City on Fire!

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