“Claw” with Adam Sandler, by Netflix | The film, a love letter to basketball, is directed by Jeremiah Zagar

From the spy who caught a fish with his ass in the absurd Do not mess with the Zohanto the lovable misfit who wanted to ogle his girl’s eyes because he loved her too much at intoxicated with love –the great work of Paul Thomas Anderson–, Adam Sandler has unfailingly participated in various types of sentimental education for several generations. He does not make sense to be outraged. It is a false controversy that of those who are fans of his silly family comedies against those who like his serious and ambitious roles: one thing simply would not exist without the other. And in that hybrid is the magic of the character. Many were shocked when Sandler fell short of a long-awaited and rumored Oscar nomination for Uncut Gems, by the Safdie brothers – their great “serious” role –, as much as they have enjoyed when it was nominated for the Razzies awards (for the worst films made in a year). The best, the worst. Perhaps, a strange symbol that the films for which he feels affection are not always masterpieces, or that ambitious films do not necessarily remain in the emotional register, in that immense complexity of memory and pop culture.

It has been several films since Sandler has been released in theaters due to a millionaire production contract that he signed with Netflix in 2015. Since then, the chain ensures that its users have spent 2 billion hours watching their movies in streaming. Some, milestones of her acting maturity as Uncut Gems either The Meyerowitz Stories –directed by the Oscar-nominated, former indie director par excellence, Noah Baumbach–, and others that simply join a great list of comedy and bizarre, enjoyable or terrible according to each one.

This month, right in the middle of the Celtics vs. Warriors games, and with the approval of the NBA, Netflix premiered Claw, a sports movie starring Sandler and produced by LeBron James. Great breeding ground, because basketball may be one of the sports that has taken the most advantage of its cinematographic power. Maybe basketball doesn’t interest you at all, and even so, its musicality, the floating skill of its players, makes it a beautiful sport to consume at home and powerful to be explored on film. Sandler knows that, a fan of sports in general – but crazy about the NBA in particular – who has exploited them in his career with some great successes such as water boy Y Happy Gilmore. hustle it was a movie that Sandler was particularly passionate about. So much so that not only did he want, once again, to disregard comedy as a genre, explore another acting register and film real basketball players with pulse and ambition, but he was infatuated with one director in particular: Jeremiah Zagar, responsible for the celebrated and ethereal coming on age We The Animalsand an admirer of, well, people like Terrence Malick, who predictably wanted nothing to do with him.

In Claw, Sandler plays Stanley Sugerman, a disgraced basketball star turned scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, who travels the world looking for players with substandard skills to recruit for the team. The discovery that mobilizes the film is Bo Cruz, from Madrid, played by Juancho Hernangómez, a 26-year-old athlete, in real life a professional player for the Utah Jazz, who at first did not want to have anything to do with Sandler either, but finally here He makes his debut as an actor quite unbelievably. Bo – or as he is described: “the cross between Scottie Pippen and a she-wolf” – is a boy who works as a laborer to support his family and who spends his time playing street games, perhaps the most beautiful scenes in the film, before to meet Sugerman, who will try to give him a chance in the big leagues.

Of course, there are no surprises – nor any pretense of them – in Claw. This is a movie of models and archetypes, in love with Rocky, which triumphs rather for its craftsmanship, for its generosity, and, well, why not?, for its big heart. There is the warmth of Queen Latifah, the songs of Dan Deacon and the possibility of listening to a bearded Adam Sandler, who was always a child, say things like: “50-year-old boys have no dreams, they have nightmares and eczema” . As often happens, Jeremiah Zagar, who did not want to do anything with Adam Sandler, began to get excited about the actor’s insane passion for basketball, with all the NBA players who joined the project – from stars like Allen Iverson, going through inseparable from Sandler like Shaquille O’Neal–, and in short, with the possibility of filming a sport with all its choreography, with all its anarchy, with all its complexity. “I said no, but then I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie. I began to think of ways that I could make her mine, with my record. And I got back on the phone with Adam. We wanted to work with all the non-professional actors and we wanted to shoot in a way that felt authentic to both the city and the sport, and give it a realism that I was excited about,” Zagar said. And so he did. After accepting the task, he turned his attention to the crafts of cinema and sports. He was inspired by the Zinedine Zidane documentary, he built a device similar to the one Scorsese used in his ragingbull, which allowed boxers to look directly at the target and punch towards the camera, and he also spent several days just filming matches and matches and entire matches.

For those who admire basketball, this movie is not a waste at all. For those who admire any of the possible Sandlers, this contained and sunny melancholy that we now know he is capable of is a very nice thing to see. Also, of course, a kind of revenge for everyone who has loved a sport and never been able to leave the substitute bench. “Yes, I would say this is my revenge. I always dreamed of basketball and I played it at school. I remember a lot once the coach lined us up and started telling each of us our strengths and when he got to me he said: You always bring good music!”


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