Movies about con men and women are always intriguing to me, but often the storylines are so complicated or convoluted. Sometimes the director decides to keep certain elements hidden away from the audience to prevent them from figuring it out too soon, but often I end up walking away feeling frustrated. That’s not the case with Sharper. In fact, the story is almost a little too easy to figure out, but with such a great cast, it is a truly entertaining film.
Directed by Benjamin Caron, Sharper is sort of a “who is conning who” type of story. It is told with five chapters focusing on five main characters, one character at a time. The movie begins with “Tom” inside a small New York bookstore. The bookstore is quiet and Tom (Justice Smith) is alone. Then Sandra (Briana Middleton) walks in looking for a particular book and the two hit it off. He asks her out. She accepts. A romance is born. The relationship is cute and the pair appear to be made for each other. Even their friends think so. But something is off. Is this too good to be true? (Spoiler: it is.)
With the next four chapters, Sharper introduces new characters. We learn that Tom is estranged from his billionaire father, Richard (John Lithgow). Unlike his father who is full of ambition, Tom isn’t interested in money or so he says. Richard is dating the much younger Madeline (Julianne Moore). They look good together each playing the part of rich socialite well. And then there’s Max (Sebastian Stan) who is Madeline’s spoiled adult son who makes a habit of making life difficult for her in very public ways.
The fantastic cast is diverse with distinct personalities. At times, Moore’s Madeline looks like a victim while other times she purrs while confessing her love to Richard. Richard is cold and treats his son as if he is an obligation. In return, Tom tends to avoid his father if possible. Meanwhile, Max is a complicated soul whose only real love is his money. Briana Middleton may be the most impressive of the bunch as we see a completely different side to her during a few flashbacks. Each character will encounter a roller coaster of emotions before this tale is told.
To explain more would spoil the film, but it should be noted that each con builds upon each other. There is an expectation that the final con will lead to something really big, but Sharper lets us down. It has a solid ending, but one that leaves you thinking, “Is that it?” It’s not that impressive and pretty far-fetched. You have to wonder why these characters do what they do and why. With that said, Sharper is actually very entertaining and is beautifully shot. But it sets up a puzzle that is easily solved making the viewer feel like a genius but leaving wanting something more. So, the film is good but in order to be great, it just needs to be…sharper.
Sharper is an Apple Original Film distributed by A24 and can currently be seen on Apple TV+.
Main Image: Tom (Justice Smith) in his book store. (A24)
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