“Sharper,” which is directed by Benjamin Caron and written by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, tells the story of a bookshop employee, Tom (Justice Smith), who falls in love with a customer named Sandra (Briana Middleton). But when Sandra’s brother, Jason, comes knocking at her door, asking for money to pay off his debt collectors, Tom reveals that he is the son of a billionaire, Richard (John Lithgow), and he can help him financially. When Sandra agrees, he gives her the $350,000 that Jason needs, and she takes off with it under the pretext of giving it to her brother. The twist is that there’s no Jason. Sandra is playing a role under Max’s (Sebastian Stan’s) direction, with Tipsy (Phillip Johnson Richardson) momentarily pretending to be Jason to rob Tom. However, when Sandra learns about why Max did what he did, she goes back to Tom to help him get his revenge.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Did Sandra Reveal Her True Backstory in ‘Sharper’?
After Sandra runs away with Tom’s money (or Tom’s father’s money, to be specific), the film goes into flashback mode, showing that Sandra used to be a junkie who was out on parole. One night, when she was being harassed by her parole officer, Max spotted her and decided to take her in. I don’t know if you can say that Max groomed her because he helped her get clean. He could’ve done that for his own benefit. But then again, he could have just chosen a person who wasn’t a drug addict to do the job instead of putting in all the work to help Sandra get rid of her bad habits. The counterargument to that is that Max realized that Sandra was the perfect candidate for the job because she wasn’t tied to anything. She clearly didn’t have a family, and she was looking at years of jail time. So, her only way out of the pickle that she was in was by working for Max. In a roundabout way, it’s never really clear if Max picked Sandra out of pity because he wanted to use her for the job or if it was a mixture of both.
All that said, no matter how you slice it, there’s no doubt about the fact that Sandra fell in love with Max because she probably interpreted his behavior as a sign of affection towards her. But we all know that Max was trained to feel nothing for anyone else but Madeline (Julianne Moore), i.e., his mentor. So, Sandra’s love was clearly one-sided, and that is why she never saw his con coming her way. Now, it’s unclear what happened between the time Sandra expressed her feelings to Max and when Max sent her to Tom, but I am guessing that Sandra realized that Max didn’t have any feelings for her. Which is why, when she saw how Tom looked at her and treated her, she understood that there were better ways to live a life. However, since she was bound to Max, she couldn’t leave the con job midway and stay with Tom. That was probably why she executed the plan and came to her senses when she was dumped by Max. You can say that she returned to Tom to survive and to get revenge on Max, but optimistically speaking, I think she was actually ready to heal.
Did Sandra and Tom Get Their “Happily Ever After” Ending?
Sandra’s crime was technically inexcusable because she had helped Max and Madeline get Tom out of Richard’s will and allowed Madeline to become the owner of Richard’s estate. But since she didn’t know that the job on Richard and Tom was that personal, she went back to him with an apology and a plan to bring Madeline and Max to their knees. This included bringing Tipsy and his con team into the fold and pretending that they were a private detective team that had found Sandra drugged out of her mind under a bridge. That forced Madeline to crack a deal with Sandra where she’d give her Max, and Sandra wouldn’t reveal Madeline’s truth to Tom and the rest of the world. Madeline’s desperation and Max’s trust in Madeline prevented them from seeing that Sandra was pulling not one but two cons on them. The first con was making it seem that Madeline’s jig was up, and the second was convincing Madeline that she had accidentally murdered Tom. By the time they realized what had happened, Madeline had lost all her money to Tom because she had transferred all of it to the charity foundation (which was under Tom’s jurisdiction) to pay the fake detectives off as they were witnesses. Additionally, Madeline and Max were trapped in a plane, taking them away from both Sandra and Tom.
Unlike Madeline and Max, Tom and Sandra paid Tipsy and his team what they deserved, with Sandra announcing that that was her last job as a con artist. The concluding moments of the film saw Tom and Sandra deciding to go to the Japanese restaurant where they had gone for their first date. But this time, things were evidently different because they weren’t fooling each other with lies. Therefore, from an optimistic point of view, you can see the ending as Tom and Sandra hitting the reset button because they realize that they’ve nothing to hide. They know everything about each other, and they are clearly in love. So, they probably feel that there’s no harm in seeing where this relationship goes. But that’s where the pessimist in me has to ask: What if Sandra is playing a long con? Tipsy says that Max has taught her well. Sandra knows that Tom is the sole owner of his father’s estate. Don’t you think she’s faking her love again so that she can marry him and then take all that money for herself? She’s also aware of the fact that until and unless Madeline and Max die, they are going to keep coming for her. And she needs protection, which she can get from Tom and his money now. Whether you prefer an optimistic future or a pessimistic one for Sandra and Tom after they exit that bookstore is completely up to you.