“Eat the Rich” is a subgenre of films that we, as audiences, have evolved to love. It might be gauged as the plebeians’ desire to eventually demolish the hierarchy and attempt to equalize the rich and the poor. But how do we bridge this gap? The most obvious answer is by stealing from the rich! But Apple TV’s “Sharper” shows that the rich will always have a way to stop the commoners from conning them by just becoming morally upright and condemning stealing as a criminal activity. It just makes a good garment that hides the years of oppression the poor have had to face while they were being walked all over by the greed of the exuberantly rich upper classes. “Sharper” just pushes you on the edge and forces you to see that the privilege of the progenies of the upper class is built on a legacy of exploiting the labor of the less fortunate.
“Sharper” can also be read as the story of a young, rich man’s journey to free his family from the hands of a con woman who is well past her prime. Her age plays a significant role in shaping the plot. The fact that she has transcended a certain age already makes her marginalized. We cannot ignore the fact that she is probably at a point in her life when people have started calling her a “hag,” a “crone,” or, much worse, a “witch.” Well, if we are not in Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, “witch” is not a very positive word. It can lend you unnecessary attention that might, in turn, lead to your public prosecution. It’s not that the women in this narrative are naive and fall victim to their circumstances. But we judge their actions, and the film leaves us enough space to think about what might have gone wrong with these women.
The film has been called a “neo-noir ” in its description on Apple TV+. It surely features a femme fatale in Julianne Moore’s Madeline. But it somehow fails to do the poetic justice. It fails to blame the rich for creating the aspiration of becoming rich in a commoner’s mind. The film, as it turns out, celebrates the rich and exactly how they manipulate the situations to take the money that is not even mostly theirs but to which they feel entitled to it. Therefore, we can always view the film’s purpose of mirroring what happens in the society as an avenue for opening discussions about social injustices. “Sharper ” can be branded as a psychological thriller that is unnecessarily lengthy, and the viewer keeps on making the correct associations before the writers Alessandro Tanaka and Brian Gatewood reveal them to us. The film, although it should be credited for being a decent stylish thriller that lay watchers would seriously indulge themselves in and would eventually emerge entertained from the experience of a Manhattan and Upper East Side lifestyle. Directed by Benjamin Caron, the episodic screenplay and decent acting performances from the cast make the film bearable. The characters have been unpacked below, along with information on the cast members:
Justice Smith As Tom
The film opens with an episode titled “Tom.” Tom is a bookstore owner in Manhattan. In the opening minutes of the film, he meets a girl named Sandra, who is enrolled in a Ph.D. program at NYU. Tom, who was once an aspiring writer, is impressed with Sandra and immediately asks her out on a date. Their date turns into a whirlwind of romance—everything cute, soft, and flowery. Tom seems to be getting over the depression his mother’s passing had inflicted him with. But their fairy-tale romance was too good until it ceased to be so. Sandra’s brother showed up with goons sniffing him out and demanding a huge sum of money. At this point, the viewer, who knows the film to be a film driven by con artists, is confused because the film so far is just a tale of love. Tom’s family identity is not revealed, but we can gauge that he is well off. He eventually helps Sandra with the money, but she bails out. This is where Tom’s episode comes to an end. We later learned he is the son of a multimillionaire by the name of Richard Hobbes. Towards the end of the film, Tom finds out that his father, in his will, had not left much for his inheritance but gave it to Madeline, his widow, and Tom’s stepmother. At this crucial moment, he decides to look for Sandra and discovers that Madelaine is actually a con artist, eventually hatching an elaborate plan to get back what is “rightfully” his. What is interesting is that Tom and the other characters in the film, apart from a lawyer who manages their finances, do not have much respect for the legal system; that is, no one really calls the police or reports these massive thefts and malpractices. Tom looks weak and is a weak character who is too self-absorbed to take any interest in his old father’s life. What, at first glance, seems to be a son’s rebellion against his father’s tyranny only turns out to be his irresponsibility.
Justice Smith plays the role of this aloof yet concerned individual, Tom, who only takes the initiative when his money is robbed. He is known for his roles in films like “Pokemon Detective Pikachu,” “All Bright Places,” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”
Briana Middleton As Sandra AKA Sandy
Sandra is not what she seems to be. In fact, no one in this film is what they portray themselves to be. Sandra is a girl who has been trained by a con artist by the name of Max to con Tom and, in the grand scheme of things, his father, Richard. She is a drug addict who accomplishes her job at a quick pace. But in the process, she actually falls for Tom. She is the only character who is given some redemption for committing sin. She helps Tom get back his inheritance in the final twist of the plot.
Brianna Middleton, who plays Sandra, shows a lot of promise. She was earlier spotted in “The Inheritance” and “The Tender Bar.”
Sebastian Stan As Max
Max is a con artist. Very suave and confident, he seems to know what he is doing. He enters Richard Hobbes’s house posing as Madeline’s son when, in reality, he is her lover. He devotes himself fully to making Sandy into Sandra so that they can fool Tom. He even conned Richard Hobbes by acting out in a wild manner, which apparently caused much distress to his mother. When they have stolen nearly a million dollars, and both he and Madeline decide to run away, we start to garner the sense that this entire game of fraudulent behavior is actually Madeline’s brainchild and Max is a lover boy who has been encapsulated by her charms and only works as her foot soldier.
Sebastian Stan, with all his charisma and devotion, plays a wonderful Max. He is best known for portraying the role of Bucky in Marvel films and has had successful outings in films like “I, Tonya,” “Pam & Tommy,” and “The Covenant.”
Julianne Moore As Madeline
Madeline is our “femme fatale.” Her actions and decisions guide the film. Yet she is never put in the middle of the action. She becomes an old man’s trophy wife and decides to call off the robbery, perhaps because halfway through the film and probably her life, she gets the idea that she cannot spend her life conducting petty thefts. She seems to be motivated by money and her love or care (however, we tag her concern for Richard), but outwardly, she only seems to be guided by money. Madeline gets the moral punishment for stealing Tom’s inheritance, and she is stripped of all her trophy wife’s glory in the end.
The veteran Julianne Moore reprises the role of Madeline. She is every bit convincing as the concerned mother, the truthful lover, the sympathetic stepmother, and a brilliant con artist. The Academy Award winner has been seen in films like “The Big Lebowski,” “Magnolia,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” “Hannibal,” and many more.
“Sharper,” which tells the story about the survival of the wittiest or most intelligent person, was truly meant for the bigger screens, but after a limited release, it is now streaming on Apple TV+.
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