If you are a devotee of time travel...

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Sharper: Scams Cubed

This seems to be a season for non-linear neo-noir caper thrillers set in the New York area.  A few months ago, Kaleidoscope appeared on Netflix, so linear you were invited to watch the episodes of that series in any order you chose.  Sharper, which debuted on Apple TV+ a week or so ago, is a movie, not a series, so you can't really choose the order of the parts.  But the parts are equally non-linear, and the story just as captivating.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

This time, we're treated to scam artists not bank robbers.  But given that the object of the scam is a billionaire, the money in Sharper is even bigger than the object of the heist in Kaleidoscope.  And the complex story is just as much a pleasure to watch unfold.

Tom works in a bookstore in the Village (we find out a little later that he owns the bookstore, and in still later segment that that's because his father is a billionaire).  He meets and starts falling in love with Sandra, a student at NYU, who of course has a dissolute brother who desperately needs money -- some $350,000.  Tom is able to give her that money -- against her (faux) protests -- after which Sandra disappears.  Thus ends the first of a series of escalating, interconnected scams.   Here let me say that Justice Smith as Tom was good, and Briana Middleton as Sandra was major-league superb.  This is the first time I've seen either on the screen.  I'd say both have great careers ahead.

And this as I said is also just the first of the scams.  Julianne Moore plays Madeline, the billionaire's wife, and a master scammer herself.  John Lithgow plays the billionaire, and, unless I missed something, pretty much the only person in this narrative who is not a scammer.  It's always good to see both of them on the screen.  And especially so in the same movie.  (I read somewhere that Lithgow may be back again as the Trinity Killer in one or more of the Dexter spinoffs that are percolating, and it was great to see him as Churchill in the early seasons of The Crown.)  Sebastian Stan, in addition to having a memorable name, also puts in a memorable performance as Max, who, well, is and isn't what he seems to be, but mostly is.

On the rare chance that you've read this far and haven't seen Sharper, I'm not going to tell you much about the ending, except that it's satisfying and everyone gets their just deserts. (With those scenes in the Japanese restaurant, I almost said just desserts. Mine is mochi ice cream.) Put Sharper in the category of excellent narratives that begin in bookstores -- the Lifetime now Netflix series You would be another example -- which gives it double creds as both a bookstore and a non-linear crime story.  Either would be enough for me to see it, and just for good measure Sharper has some sharp acting.  Creds to writers  Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, and director Benjamin Caron.

No comments: