‘Sharper’ Ending, Explained: How Does Tom Get His Revenge? What Happens To Madeline And Max?

I could conjure up a number of superlatives for a film like Benjamin Caron’s “Sharper,” and I wouldn’t be exaggerating one bit. But what I would rather go with, and this one is sort of personal, is that the film is pretty much a cinematic substitution for caffeine. When you are practically plump with films that either read like a John Milton verse or an overabundant political manifesto, “Sharper” materializes with all the might of a turbulent entertainer. Here’s a film that doesn’t misconstrue its plausible impact. A wish to be put on the pedestal of masterpieces is hardly a part of the film’s blanket agenda. “Sharper” astutely lays down its cards and smirks at you from across the room to draw you in for a rollercoaster guessing game.


As smooth as Sebastian Stan sliding into his charming red flag era (and boy, are we here for it!), the film’s wily, serpentine twists and turns sneak up on you when you’re distracted by the conniving leads’ allure. Partly allowing a few predictable twists here and there is how “Sharper” convinces you that you may just be too sharp to fall for the shocking reveal it has stacked up. By the time you’ve bestowed a “king of the charades” crown on your head, you will undoubtedly feel your throne disintegrating. If you are prone to taking advice from complete strangers, such as yours truly, do not read up on the film before watching. Now, for those of you freshly back from the Starling experience (with a crush on Julianne Moore, most likely), I’m going to try and find my way out of the maze.

Spoilers Ahead


‘Sharper’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?

Caron’s film is essentially sectioned into parts that scratch the superficial surface of what truly propels its striking characters until it all comes together to form a volatile medley of pure chaos. And with no one stopping me, I am compelled to recount the opening sequence with a Fleabag-esque fourth wall break: “This is a love story.” Tom is practically a non-threatening Joe Goldberg, and yeah, it’s okay for you to swoon over him on account of his skeleton-free closet. When dreamy Sandra walks into Tom’s bookstore for a romance-novel-like meet cute, Tom is instantly taken by her. And he can hardly be blamed for the same when he meets a pretty girl who’s pursuing a Ph.D. from NYU with a thesis as impactful as “Redefining Radicalism: The Rise Of Black Feminism In American Literature.” An awkward refusal of his dinner-date proposal disheartens Tom, but he still lets her take the book she doesn’t have the cash for, as the blushing Sandra promises to come back with the money to pay for it. Closing up shop for the day, Tom doesn’t really expect Sandra to show up again. But she does come back, and not just to settle her due bill. Surprising Tom with a candid confession of her mental lapse when he asked her out, Sandra agrees to go on a date. A very nimble rom-com-ish walk leads them to the warm-hued restaurant, where they connect as they ponder over the respective losses that laid down the path for them to be who they are today.

After the dreadful passing of his mother, Tom’s well-being fell prey to the devastating wrath of depression. He somehow manages to function now that he is surrounded by the comforting company of books. Sandra, on the other hand, had lost her parents at a very young age. Along with her brother, she was stuck in an exhausting cycle of hopping into foster homes until she came to find a foster parent who had a penchant for reading. There, she got her hands on a copy of Jane Eyre, a book with a character that was reflective of her inner turmoil. The two bibliophiles commence a romance so wholesome that even Tom’s well-meaning friends gladly approve of the relationship. The days spent in the soothing haze of something like love only seem to be getting better for the two. Their affection even passes a hurdle when Sandra and Tom succeed in turning a moment of gloom into an opportunity to provide reassurance and comfort. When asked why he is reluctant to spend time together at his place, Tom somberly mentions a father to whom he is a disappointment and a stepmother he feels uneasy around. The two are only brought closer the more they reveal what truly haunts them. 


How Does Sandra Con Tom?

You didn’t expect an unscathed journey for the lovers, did you? If just how well things were going for the two wasn’t shady enough already, Sandra’s ne’er-do-well brother combatively banging on her door and asking for money is an indisputable sign that things aren’t as they seem. Sandra soothes the concerned Tom by explaining to him her brother’s usual precarious tendencies. And while Tom is sympathetic to her predicament at first, things keep spiraling out of control rapidly. Worried after getting no response from Sandra for a questionable amount of time, Tom pays her a visit, only to find a morose Sandra on the edge of the bed. Her rogue brother has gotten himself mixed up with some dangerous people who have threatened to end his life if he doesn’t pay them back the money he owes. Being the “nice guy” that he is, Tom offers to pay a whopping $350000. But how does a bookstore owner have that kind of cash lying around?

Well, as it turns out, Tom’s ailing father is a billionaire business tycoon who, despite not being all that approving of Tom’s idle way of life, doesn’t hold him back from accessing the family fortune. Playing the part of a girlfriend reluctant to borrow a hefty amount from her man isn’t where Sandra concludes her dubious design. She plays his naive emotions like a fiddle as she manipulates him into proving just how close they are by calling him a “stranger.” She does end up accepting a bag full of cash after getting done with her “oh, you shouldn’t have” bit and making a dicey promise to meet him at her apartment. Watching her disappear into the side of a glass building is the last time Tom lays eyes on his beloved. He waits and waits until he loses his mind out of sheer anxiety. But his fear isn’t about the possible con she may have pulled. He is worried about what the “bad people” may have done to her when he bangs on her door.


Tom may have been a little blindsided by his feelings for her, but he isn’t necessarily blockheaded. He soon succumbs to the realization that he has been swindled by the charms of a woman he will have a hard time moving on from. Now, if you must take a walk backward to revisit all that you knew of Sandra to understand if she had left any clues behind, let me make the walk easier for you. Tom was never seen meeting a friend or even an acquaintance of Sandra. And while it might have been comforting for the introvert in him, that should’ve caused more suspicion. At his birthday party, Sandra was noticeably fumbling to follow up on one lie with another when she met a Vassar graduate who was asking her about her time at the alma mater they supposedly shared.

How Did Sandra Become A Con Artist?

To witness Sandra’s introduction to an inglorious life of defrauding innocent people, we are yanked a few years back. A repeat offender out on parole, Sandra walks into a shady dive to meet with her shadier parole officer, who intends to make sure that she is a dutiful parolee. Officer Larusso effortlessly calls her bluff about holding down a job and not indulging in drugs. Only making matters worse by offering her a backhander, Sandra is seconds away from being captured and getting thrown in a cell. Diffusing the tension with an amusing interruption is Max, a man who was sitting at the bar and felt it necessary to help a criminal out. He offers to pay off the officer with a meager amount of cash, which he means to sweeten with the Rolex on his wrist.

After a bit of fascinatingly manipulative back and forth, Max persuades Larusso to take the expensive watch, paying back thousands to make up the difference and letting Sandra go. With Larusso gone, Sandra is offered a share of his earnings for helping him pull off a diddle. Yup, you guessed it. The Rolex was a fake, and he has got a whole batch of the same in his car. Sandra reluctantly accepts Max’s invitation to move into his apartment and work for him. But the gig doesn’t come easy for Sandra, who goes through a thorough inspection to prove that she is not a junkie. She is to lose cash if she so much as says a cuss word, and she is to learn a little bit of everything so that she can convincingly converse about anything. Overwhelmed to possess the kind of money that seems unbelieve to her, Sandra wastes it on drugs and gets herself thrown out.

After hours of tearful pleading, however, Max decides to give her a second chance. In an unfaltering resolution, Sandra absorbs the intricate backstory that Max has concocted. After a considerable amount of time spent in rigorous practice, Max takes Sandra to a luxurious bar, luring her with the idea that they are there to celebrate his birthday. Sandra soon comes to understand that they are, in fact, there for her first test. She is implored to seduce a middle-aged man at the bar and convince him to invite her back to his room. A beautiful girl like Sandra would be able to pull it off without needing an elaborate ruse. But nothing is as simple as it seems when someone as erratic as Max is involved. Just as the man who happens to be married begins making his way closer to Sandra, Max breaks into the room, pretends to be her furious ex-boyfriend, and practically rampages all over. The baffled man is asked to leave them alone for a half hour so as to allow Sandra the time to calm her ex down. In his absence, the two exhilarated fraudsters rummage through his belongings to steal cash and a pair of diamond earrings that Max adorns Sandra with. Sandra is haplessly attracted to the conman despite knowing better. She draws him in for a kiss, being under the false impression that she is the only girl he has ever partnered up with.


Is Madeline Playing A Long Game?

Seeing Max meet up with his elegant, well-to-do mother does, for a hot minute, suggest that his swindling business is fuelled by his criminal aptitude and not, as we first thought, a need for money. Madeline’s current boyfriend, Richard, is as affluent as he is ancient. And to no one’s surprise, he isn’t too fond of Max, and he has more than one good reason for that. You can’t blame a guy for not offering an affectionate embrace to a grown man who intentionally causes his mother acute emotional agony. But for the sake of Madeline, who holds herself accountable for Max being a manchild and still wants to do right by him, Richards opts for a truce and invites him to an event at his charitable foundation. Max decides to stay in and rest while Madeline and Richard are off attending the event.

Richard can hardly keep his hands off his girlfriend, with whom he hasn’t been able to spend a lot of quality time lately. His hope for a little alone time is violently butchered when he comes home to find Max detained by an officer who wants to bring him in for attempting to buy drugs. Desperate to get it over with, anxious Richard wishes to pay the officer off. Before he can accept the money, Madeline picks up on the ruse that Max has concocted. She kicks the fake officer out, furiously slaps her son, and commands him to depart from the house.


The next morning, a wretched Madeline apologizes to Max for hitting him before she proceeds to kiss him. Yes, it’s not a very motherly kiss, but hold your gasps. The tension in the scene that would make Freud turn in his grave is soon diffused when we learn that Madeline is not his mother. She is his older girlfriend and his partner in crime. The very problematic (pardon the understatement) couple has designed a perfect plan where Madeline will play the part of his mother, seduce an old, rich man, and manipulate him into paying Max to get out of their lives. Just as Max is having a hard time seeing his woman in the arms of another man, Richard seems to have had enough. Ridiculously in love with Madeline, Richard doesn’t mind offering Max $60,000 a month just to get rid of him. Max abides, but with greater demand. He promises to leave them alone if Richard pays up a significantly larger sum, and that too in cash.

Seeing no other options placed in front of him, the lovelorn billionaire pays him the entire amount and sends him on his way. Now here’s a shocker. This entire exchange is being played out in Richard’s office, where his son has just paid him an unpleasant visit. And his son happens to be none other than Tom himself. Yes, the guy who was conned by Sandra, who works for Max, who works with Madeline, and who is conning Richard; yes, this sentence is meant to mess with your head a little. But let’s get back to the story. Max, Madeline, and Tipsy (the fake cop and Sandra’s fake brother) meet up at a bar to celebrate. The vacation-bound con couple has disappointed Tipsy by paying him much less than the share he was promised. But an even bigger shocker appears the next morning when Max receives a call from Madeline. She has made up her mind about staying with Richard and marrying him so that she can inherit the old man’s wealth when he dies. And that’s not all she has done. She has set the cops on Max, and he flees at the last second to avoid a life in prison.


Why Did Max Make Sandra Defraud Tom?

Madeline has to secure her position in Richard’s will for when he finally succumbs to old age. Anxious that Richard might leave his entire estate to his son, Madeline felt the need to fashion a rift between the father and son, that already didn’t see eye-to-eye. She called up Max, who, despite being played by Madeline, was still too head-over-heels for her to deny her request. With Sandra looting $350000 from the family, Richard and Tom’s relationship went up in flames–ensuring that Tom would not be the sole inheritor of Richard’s riches. 

Eventually, when Richard passes, the family lawyer reads the heartbreaking will and testament to Tom and Madeline. He has left the entirety of his wealth to his wife, and his son gets to be the chairman of his charitable foundation. If it weren’t for his loving gesture to Tom’s mother, who founded the establishment, Richard most likely wouldn’t even have left it to him. Madeline gracefully plays the part of a grieving widow and a loving stepmother while she goes about living a life she couldn’t even dream of before it landed on her lap. Trouble brews when Tom, now without much of a life to worry about, hires private investigators to fish out Sandra.


Facing the imminent loss of everything she has, Madeline proceeds to take shrewd, mindful steps toward manipulating Tom into giving up the search. And it does work out in her favor, at least at first. Tom admittedly asks the investigators to halt the search, and carefree Madeline helps him find a suitable apartment to move into. Her peace of mind proves to be fleeting when Tom receives a call from Braddock. They have located Sandra and have brought her to the house. Seeing her life fall apart in front of her helpless eyes, Madeline implores Tom not to go into the room. Tom isn’t in a position to listen to her advice when all he wants is closure. He goes into the room to find a miserable Sandra going through a mortifying withdrawal. She admits to having an associate—a mastermind behind the con—who used her to steal the money and shoved her away as though she meant nothing. While Tom sees for the first time the real face, however glum, of the person he once loved, Madeline’s heart beats out of her chest in the other room.

‘Sharper’ Ending Explained – How Does Tom Get His Revenge?

You can imagine the absolute panic-stricken state of Madeline when Tom plans to let Sandra stay over, at least until she sobers up. Madeline can’t possibly let that happen until she is sure of Sandra’s agenda. When she goes into the room, all Sandra asks for is a chance to face Max, the man who has abandoned her and left her to perish. In exchange for that, Sandra promises to keep mum about Madeline’s malfeasance. Recovering from Sandra’s frenzied howl keeps Madeline up at night. It isn’t an easy feat to penetrate her stony exterior when all we know of her has exclusively been lies. Whether it’s rooted in her fear of imprisonment or her concern for a girl in pain, Madeline is in visible agony. Jittery, Madeline calls up Max to no avail. When she is almost on the brink of giving up hope, Max responds. In the guise of taking Sandra out for a walk, Madeline takes a drive to a secluded area to see Max.


Seeing the man who had basically exploited her and disposed of her when his criminal agenda was fulfilled, all Sandra can get herself to wonder is if she has ever meant anything to him. Knowing him through and through, Madeline warns Sandra against hoping for an apology. He has felt nothing, and he will never make amends. Breaking up the pity party are two cars. Coming out of them are Tom and the private investigators. Madeline attempts to make a deal with Braddock and offers to pay him in exchange for her freedom. Tom swiftly grabs a gun and points it at Sandra, the girl who ripped his heart out of his chest. When Madeline gets a hold of the gun and points it at Tom, he practically grabs hold of the trigger and shoots himself.

As Tom takes his dying gasp, Madeline wheezes in fear of going to prison. Submerged in the distressing turn of events, Madeline signs off the aggregate of her fortune to the charity funds. In the numbing aftermath of the tragedy, Madeline, Max, and Sandra board a plane to freedom. Madeline explains to Max how she hasn’t really given up anything. Since Tom was the chairman and he is now deceased, Madeline has effectively risen to his position on the board. In her dreadful state of shock, Sandra wonders how the two can still continue to discuss money when someone has just lost his life. She excuses herself to use the restroom, and that is when Madeline is met with the shock of a lifetime. The blood on her sleeve comes off easily, suggesting that it isn’t really blood.


Opening the door to an empty restroom makes it clear to Madeline that she has been played. When Max was hiring Sandra, he mentioned that no honest man could ever be cheated. Being around Tom for so long made her see that he really is a standup guy. When Max abandoned her and went off the face of the earth, Sandra went back to Tom and came clean about all that really took place. She brought him to Tipsy, who then introduced them to Braddock. With the rush of vengeance on their minds, the group hatched an elaborate plan and practiced until they were sure of their ability to pull it off smoothly. Now in complete control of his father’s wealth, Tom has decided to stick to his simpler way of life and not change a thing. Ending it on a hopeful note, Sandra asks him out, and the two decide to come full circle and go out on a date again.

“Sharper” is a 2023 mystery thriller film directed by Benjamin Caron.

Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

Latest articles