Sharper Review: Remember when Whodunit was evil?
Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Justice Smith and the breakout Briana Middleton star in a handsome – and often predictable – rogue drama.
The opening song to Benjamin Caron’s beautifully crafted — and often terribly predictable — rogue drama “Sharper” tells us everything we need to know about what’s to come. They’re smooth, a little mean, and definitely stupid. In fact, “credits” is too generous a term, as Caron opens her film debut with a single word: “Sharper.” Flash, according to the textbook definition, is wonderfully simple in its information: “one who lives according to his mind”.
Not true? everybody? Not like this, not like these people. Godhopefully it won’t be like these people.
Based on a blacklisted screenplay by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, “Shaper” slices and dices a classic con story and turns it into its own kind of rip-off, one where everyone is to some degree guilty or guilty or just damned worthy of being conned and enjoying it. in piling up the plain vile twists to hell. Told backwards (until it isn’t) and divided into chapters named after certain characters (until it’s really just about all of them), “Sharper” isn’t nearly as smart as you’d like it to be, but it’s nearly two hours long. will keep the audience on their toes.
Unfortunately, the less the audience knows about “Sharper,” the better. Even calling the film a con drama with a multi-star cast—Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Justice Smith, John Lithgow, and the breakout Briana Middleton—will inspire viewers to stick around and keep wondering who’s cheating on whom (and how and why etc.). Let it go if you can.
This is exactly what Caron attempts with the film’s first chapter (“TOM”), which introduces a mild-mannered bookstore manager (Smith) whose life is turned upside down by a pretty PhD student (Middleton) who loves him very much. the books he likes best (“Jane Eyre,” one of the many odd details that don’t really fit these characters). Soon, Caron – a seasoned television director from “Andor” to “The Crown” to “Sherlock” – finds herself rich in an expensive New York romance, while Tom and Sandra grow closer through their love of books and through shared childhood traumas.
Apple Original Films, A24
All of this is interrupted when Sandra’s invisible brother – her only living relative! – starts sniffing for money to save him from a shameful situation. And wouldn’t you know it, mild-mannered bookstore manager Tom just happens to have a fat trust fund that he’s happy to open to help out his crush. Who is cheating on whom? Well, it’s anyone’s guess, but ‘Sharper’ has a few more tricks up his sleeve and rewinds time to find out how Sandra got involved in this nefarious scheme, in the care of career criminals Max (Stan) and Madeline (Moore).
The way these four—plus Lithgow as the Manhattan billionaire on whom Madeline has her eye—are rarely surprising, but the way Gatewood and Tanaka decide to throw them together can be fascinating. Sandra and Max meet by chance at a bar, where she claims to “see” something in his manner that makes her think she could be a good partner, while we never get the full story of Max and Madeline. “Sharper” is about the conflict between what is seen and what is unseen, what we may not know, and the different levels of information the script releases reinforces this theme.
If the rest of it is like this, well, sharp. As “Sharper” reaches back in time to unravel its many tangled relationships, eagle-eyed viewers are likely to spot storylines from a mile away. And those moments we don’t necessarily feel earned? They are filled with Steven Soderbergh-style flashbacks, to flash pageit winks at whole events that we didn’t even know about until it was revealed to us, the whole scam is just a check-off to-do list of bad people behaving very badly indeed.
But like all good spoofs, “Sharper” at least boasts the trappings of a far more subtle affair (as Max tells Sandra he’s going to teach her how to appear to be someone else), and Caron’s film often feels like a smooth trip, but sometimes this look is also pretty good. The stellar performances of the individual stars – particularly Middleton, who delivers a truly big performance in the film’s first two very different chapters – raise the bar throughout the film, and the New York location shoot adds real texture to the film. an image that is literally about appearances.
You may know where this is all going, but damn if you’re not going to enjoy the wild ride there.
An Apple Original Films and A24 release, “Sharper” opens in theaters on Friday, February 10th and begins streaming on AppleTV+ on Friday, February 17th.
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