Apple TV+’s Sharper director deftly mixes rom-com elements with a cheating thriller
From his work on the Netflix hit The crown and the Andor Series on Disney+, director Benjamin Caron takes us through the twists and turns of the deception in the Apple TV+ movie sharperstarring Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Justice Smith, Briana Middleton and John Lithgow.
“Deception is kind of a defining characteristic of this film, but I would say that sharper is a film that’s less interested in crime and more interested in how people talk, flirt, lie, impersonate, sneaky to get what they want,” Caron said Yahoo Canada. “Small deceptions have far-reaching, explosive effects…threatening a character’s confidence.”
“That was absolutely all I reacted to in the film. …I was thinking about that the other day. I thought look how pervasive cheating and lies have become everywhere. We have fake news. We have people who can go online and create some kind of profiles and false impressions of who they are. So everything has to be questioned.”
Play with the thriller genre starting with a romantic comedy feel
For sharper, written by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, Caron was also able to really play with the genre throughout the story. The film is certainly a thriller and a drama, but at the beginning of the film it feels like a romantic comedy. sharper begins with bookstore owner Tom (Smith) meeting graduate student Sandra (Middleton). As the two begin to hit it off, we are drawn into this seemingly sweet love story before falling into the deception of the narrative.
“I think maybe a while back movies had to stay within the confines of that genre, … it just has to be horror, or it just has to be romantic comedy,” Caron said. “I think audiences are smart and like movies parasite showed you how to play a little with genres within a film.”
“In a movie about throwing yourself into deception and mischief, I thought it was a fun start sharperwhere it’s almost like Richard Curtis is doing notting hill in NYC. We’ll start when Sandra and Tom meet. It’s spring in New York, a classic-romantic sort of season and a perfect time to fall in love. [It] somehow embodies hope, new beginnings.”
The romantic comedy feel at the beginning of the film also helps the audience feel invested in the love story between these two characters, which is very important for the rest of the film to work.
“You really have to believe in this couple, you have to believe there is a connection between Tom and Sandra,” Caron said. “That’s really important for the payout at the end.”
But Caron is also pretty clever at showing the audience that this is a thriller, especially with the title sequence. Without spoiling the movie too much, a clock like the one we see in this sequence is also an identifiable element of the story.
“I started thinking, well, what’s the difference between real and fake? And it felt like a kind of metaphor for the film to me,” Caron explained. “And how about actually seeing a Rolex watch being made?”
“It kind of started with that and then I thought, well, we kind of have to hold the audience in the beginning to tell them this is a thriller. Because if you just got into that scene with Tom, I was concerned that you might literally think it’s going to be something different. So that title scene at the beginning is kind of a promise of something that’s going to happen eventually.
This cleverness in Caron’s direction is also evident in the big “payoff” moments at the end of the film. While we’re not going to reveal what that is, the director had an interesting way of working with the actors in this scene
“Something dramatic happens at the end of the movie,” teased Caron. “I created this scene without two of the actors, so we rehearsed and created this as if it was really going to happen, and then I invited these two actors in to really experience it just once.”
“I wanted them to tell me if they believe it and kind of remember what that experience was like in that scenario and how you can keep up with something in a situation like that because you kind of took the momentum out of it.”
“Some television productions are just as ambitious and brilliant as feature films”
Given his award-winning success in series work, it may surprise you that this is Caron’s first feature film directing project. But the famed director insists that even with his earlier work, he still thought about doing something for the “big screen.”
“My work on The crownor Andor, I’m still thinking about doing something for the big screen,” Caron explained. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, and I guess it’s always been my goal.
“I was lucky enough The crownor Andor, Having budgets and ambition and talent to actually do work that could potentially end up on the big screen. … When I was growing up you had a little TV in the corner of the room, so to speak, and when you did something for TV it was a lot of close-ups because otherwise you wouldn’t see the faces of the actors. Whereas now I think that part of making a film in television is just as ambitious and brilliant as in feature film.”
Caron’s impressive resume is true proof that projects made for streaming can be absolutely as compelling as a feature film made for the big screen.