Sharper Synopsis: A small, wealthy family in New York City gets progressively torn apart by secrets, lies, and the theft that orchestrates all of it.
A complex web of lies and deceit emerges in a socialite family infiltrated by cunning con artists in Apple+’s latest feature, Sharper. The captivating intrigue embedded in mystery narratives continue receiving newfound life across various films (Knives Out and Vengeance) and TV programs (Poker Face and The After Party). The genre’s sudden popularization is an exciting development, allowing filmmakers an opportunity to define their distinct perspectives within time-honored mystery trends.
In the hands of director Benjamin Caron and screenwriters Alessandro Tanaka and Brian Gatewood, Sharper spins an evolving roller coaster ride that corkscrews through several compelling twists and turns. The chaotic experience may not add up to the sum of its sumptuous parts, but Sharper still extracts a razor-sharp slice of dopey entertainment.
Mystery yarns like Sharper display a forgotten truth about movies. Sometimes, it’s more important to emphasize how a story is told rather than the narrative itself. Caron, Tanaka, and Gatewood take that philosophy to heart as they elevate somewhat familiar ingredients at every turn.
Following accomplished TV directorial efforts with The Crown and Andor, Caron showcases his refined precision behind the camera. He and cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen bask in the luxurious world of their high-class setting, deploying a lush and sleek visual sheen to accentuate their film’s glossy appeals. Caron also defines a sense of palpable momentum underneath his pristine imagery. The director controls the material like a savvy conductor, knowing the perfect times to heighten the boiling tension with dynamic edits and other stylistic infusions.
Sharper’s con game allures benefit significantly from its assured ensemble cast. Sebastian Stan possesses remarkable range as an actor, often utilizing a charismatic facade to hide some of his characters’ underlying mania (2022’s Fresh). As the devilish Max, Stan imbues undeniable presence into a deranged con artist. Julianne Moore gives a fascinating performance within a performance as Madeline remains a constant enigma to those around her, while Brianna Middleton and Justice Smith skillfully anchor the film’s dramatic core with their sensitive deliveries.
On a narrative front, Sharper’s provides a dual-edged experience. I applaud Gatewood and Tanaka for the creative risk-taking featured throughout their clever screenplay. At its best, the movie’s narrative keeps viewers constantly second-guessing their own expectations, with the screenwriters dreaming up some well-thought subversions that make the mysterious yarn an engaging mess to unravel. The utilization of different perspectives is another thoughtful touch. Each narrative chapter gradually pieces together the dissident puzzle pieces in a dramatically satisfying manner.
Other elements of the screenplay feel undernourished by comparison. Sharper is entirely vacant in substantive departments. The characters are thin amalgams of various stock cliches, rarely defining a lived-in presence amidst the constant barrage of plot twists. Thematically, there are glimmers where the narrative sharpens its knife toward the callous behaviors of the rich, but these brief moments never build to a satisfying thesis. These shortcomings limit Sharper to being an enjoyable yet ephemeral experience that will likely fade from viewers’ memory banks.
What Sharper lacks in nuance and lasting impact, the film readily makes up for in its earnest chase of evolving thrills.
Sharper is now playing on Apple+.
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