SHARPER – Review by Susan Granger
There are grifters galore in Benjamin Caron’s psychological thriller Sharper that opens with what appears to be a innocent love story, set inside a small Greenwich Village bookstore.
That’s where NYU grad student Sandra (Briana Middleton) meets Tom (Justice Smith), the nerdy proprietor. She’s searching for a copy of Zora Neal Huston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. They ‘click’ and move on to a little Japanese restaurant on Mott Street for canoodling over dinner.
But things are not really as sweet as they seem in this whirlwind romance as Sandra eventually tells Tom she needs $350,000 to extricate her drug-addicted brother from serious trouble. Since Tom seems to have access to a seemingly unlimited bank account (which is why he can operate an independent book store), he gives her the money. But then she suddenly disappears.
It turns out that previously vulnerable Sandra was involved with Max (Sebastian Stan), a seedy con man whose fortunes are entangled with soft-spoken, shallow, sociopathic Madeline (Julianne Moore), a scheming Fifth Avenue socialite who is determined to become the trophy wife of billionaire Richard Hobbes (John Lithgow).
Introduced by title cards, the non-linear vignettes reveal the ulterior motives of each of the enigmatic characters.
Deftly written by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka (previous collaborators on The Sitter), it marks the the feature film debut of TV director Benjamin Caron (The Crown, Andor) who juggles the plot’s cleverly unpredictable twists and intriguing turns with deft ease – until the ambiguous conclusion which, unfortunately, falters.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Sharper is a scamming 7, streaming in Apple TV+.