By David Baldwin
Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth) is a naïve 26-year-old caregiver with shockingly little knowledge about sex, likely due to a trauma she suffered nearly ten years prior. She begins a sexual relationship with the father of one of her clients, which ends even quicker than it began, but wants to continue learning more about her sexuality and desires. So Sarah Jo makes an alphabetical list of positions and scenarios she wants to experience – and she is dedicated to checking them all off.
In only her second Feature film, Writer/Director/Actor Lena Dunham has crafted another project that is sex-positive and holds nothing back. The dialogue and storyline are exactly what you would expect from the award-winning Artist behind HBO’s Girls, and is just as divisive as you expect too. She is not trying to gain new fans here or change any opinions you might have of her. After so many years in the business, the honesty and frank depiction of sexuality in her work speaks for itself, and she continues to be a true “love it or hate it” icon. I admire that she does not let any of that controversial baggage get the best of her in Sharp Stick, and that she continues to speak for a generation with her graphic and humorous innuendos and flourishes (and really appreciated how natural the Covid integrations were throughout the Film). Yet I feel like she does not fully know what she wants to say here, despite how personal the project obviously is to her. By the time the Film concludes, it feels more like two very different storylines smashed together as opposed to one cohesive picture, and the all-too short runtime does not allow Dunham any time to examine what is really going on with Sarah Jo.
All of that said, Dunham has put together an eclectic ensemble to tell this story, with standout turns from Jon Bernthal, Zola’s Taylour Paige, Jennifer Jason Leigh and an absolutely uninhibited Scott Speedman. They all help prop-up Froseth’s great performance that straddles the line between innocence and maturity. She goes all in here, accurately capturing Dunham’s voice. I wish the Film were as strong as she is.
SHARP STICK screens at Sundance as follows:
PREMIERE Jan 22 8:30PM EST Available Until Jan 22 11:30PM EST
SECOND SCREENING Jan 24 10:00AM EST Available Until Jan 25 10:00AM EST
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