Adam Sandler: from scorned by critics to Oscar bet while continuing to do what he always does | icon

In one of the scenes of Claw (the basketball drama that has been, since its premiere on June 3, the most watched movie on Netflix worldwide) the character played by the player from Madrid Juancho Hernangómez rehearses his three-point shot. In front of him, the scout for him-turned-trainer, played by Adam Sandler, tries to distract him: “Your mother is a whore!”, “Your sweat smells like piss!” The objective of the test is to make the young man overcome his weak point, the irascibility with which he reacts to the insults of his opponents, which on the court makes him lose his temper and fail. The weak point that he also had at his age. “They will always try to touch your morale, but you have to be like a icebergfloating full of edges and sinking ships”, he says.

Your interpreter knows what he is talking about. Few stars are so used to receiving such furious hatred as the one that Adam Sandler has been receiving since the beginning of his career from the bulk of a critic who, in turn, impotent, has seen the comedian chain one commercial success after another; the last of them, his exclusive agreements with Netflix, for which he has earned 420 million dollars since 2015. The attacks continue, but there is no doubt that Sandler is still there. Like an iceberg.

However, with Claw the same is not happening. The film has received overwhelming favor from critics (the aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, which computes the ratings of professionals around the world, gives it an approval rating of 92%, the highest for a title starring Sandler), which has particularly praised the performance of its protagonist, whom some already place in the list of favorites for the next awards season. A situation similar to the one that the New York comedian lived with Rough diamonds (2019), when he won, among others, the award for Best Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards and ironically threatened to make a “deliberately bad” movie if he didn’t get the Oscar too.

Adam Sandler at a screening of 'Claw' in Philadelphia on June 7th.
Adam Sandler at a screening of ‘Claw’ in Philadelphia on June 7th.Lisa Lake (Getty Images for Netflix)

Despite the fact that he was not given it (nor was he nominated), Sandler has not kept his word. Journalists like David Ehrlich of indiewirehave talked about Claw as a film far from what the actor usually offers, “more similar to Jerry Maguire either The WayBack than any of the other Happy Madison productions [el sello del humorista]”. However, despite the change in register, the unconditional viewer of Adam Sandler can easily appreciate certain connections between this film and his comedies as a whole.

That a process of managing emotions is at the center of the argument already puts Claw in relation to the archetype on which Sandler based his humor, at least, in its beginnings: the figure of the immature who screams and suffers violent outbursts if he does not get what he wants or things go wrong. Even in the relationship between his character and Hernangómez’s, a temperamental boy with an old injury crime chasing him, there is a mechanic similar to that in the comedy. Happy Gilmore (Terminagolf) (1996), where a teacher played by Carl Weathers tried to teach young Sandler to relax and stop continually losing his temper, in order to help him conquer the pinnacle of golf.

“Criticism insists on separating them because it is a more serious, adult, apparently deeper approach. But it is not like that”, says, consulted by ICON, Roberto Alcover Oti, who in 2015 coordinated the book Adam Sandler. infinite childhood (Macnulti Editores), where authors such as Noel Ceballos, Tonio L. Alarcón or Diego Salgado rigorously analyze the keys to the comedian’s filmography and claim the presence of a discourse in his cinema. In addition to Happy Gilmorefor Alcover Oti, who was critical in publications such as Directed by…, Current Images either Film Looks“it is difficult not to see, in the figure of the observer of Clawto the adult player of The bonebreaker clan”, a comedy starring Sandler in 2005, where he played a football player in prison. “In his last stage, mainly due to the saga Big kids [2010-2013], Sandler has reflected, always humorously, on the hard journey to maturity of his late-adolescent heroes. and this is it Clawin a certain way”.

Against the “cynical assholes”

At the climax trial of A cool dad (1999), the boy that Sandler’s character takes over to cover for a friend testifies and reviews what he learned with him: “It has taught me that Styx is the best gang in the world and that they only have a bad reputation because most of the the critics are cynical assholes.” Next, in the key interrogation to avoid jail, Sandler decides to demonstrate his maturity by offering to be interrogated by his biggest critic: his own father. During the exchange, the understanding and catharsis between the two makes everyone present in the room, in tears, decide to call their parents to also settle pending accounts and reconcile; a scene definitely not suitable for “cynical assholes”.

A young Sandra Bullock and Adam Sandler in 1994 during the MTV Video Music Awards gala at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
A young Sandra Bullock and Adam Sandler in 1994 during the MTV Video Music Awards gala at Radio City Music Hall in New York.Jeff Kravitz (Film Magic)

The film encapsulates an essential element in the works of its protagonist: the victory against the society of order by people who do not follow the discipline of the system. The main character, a downright bum, is helped in court by a gang of excluded people made up of a drunk, a beggar, an immigrant and some homosexual friends. And another theme evidently present is that of the family, also key in Claw; a constant in Sandler, which acts as a vehicle for the maturity of his characters. In infinite childhoodAlcover Oti highlights how Click (2006) leads to understand that “a narcissistic choice of existence can only lead to oblivion and loneliness”, while Big kids he draws the “lost paradise” of childhood as something that “can be enjoyed again through children”.

Oti also defends in the book that the characters that Sandler has played in his celebrated dramatic forays, such as Punch-Drunk Love (2002) or Make me laugh (2009), they can be “deciphered as dark, sorrowful, realistic versions of their usual figures”. In the first of them, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (which won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival that year), Sandler plays another character with a developmental problem in childhood and in a perpetual state of nervousness, who lives a love story while trying to make his way through a hostile world with screams and blows. The staging also allows us to observe something similar to gags at the wrong time or out of tune in the footage, like jokes whose planning is overwhelmed by reality. Although there are those who have come to interpret it as a version indie of Superman, Anderson, author also of titles such as Magnolia either Licorice Pizzahas always defended that what he wanted to do was, essentially, “an Adam Sandler art house film”.

“There are not two Sandlers but one: the one who sublimates his desire for success and the one who cannot stop expressing the human side of it,” Roberto Alcover Oti tells ICON about the disparity with which the archetype is faced from different films. In the book, precisely, he wonders whether the greater or lesser acceptance of critics and the public to the actor’s cinema can be due to whether he is presented in a “destructive way” and not as a winner who achieves success without disheveled, ” perhaps because we feel closer to those loser and fragile archetypes, or perhaps because we find it frustrating to project ourselves onto someone who turns their defects into virtues to succeed, since we don’t always achieve it”, he reflects.

In his 2020 Independent Spirit Award acceptance speech for Rough diamondsAdam Sandler, in addition to thanking the critics for the effort to “pretend” not to hate him “for five minutes”, apparently sarcastically claimed independent cinema as “an important part” of his filmography, “from my intrepid look at the American educational system Through the eyes of a privileged sociopath named billy madison [1995] to my scathing exploration of college football and its manipulation of socially challenged athletes like Bobby Boucher [personaje protagonista de El aguador, de 1999]”. Half a year from now, when awards season starts, it will be known whether Claw it gives the comedian the opportunity to delve into this idea while collecting new statuettes. For now, with the success of his movie on Netflix, these are bad times for those who can’t stand to see Sandler succeed.

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