Well, you can’t fault her for going back to what she’s good at. Lena Dunham became a household name for her frank and usually unflattering look at white 20-somethings on HBO’s Girls, becoming a self-styled “voice of a generation” that mostly grew to resent her. With her first feature as writer and director since 2010's Tiny Furniture, Dunham returns with Sharp Stick, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age sex comedy about a white 20-something.
Sharp Stick’s “semi-autobiographical” modifier is due to the movie’s focus on 26-year-old Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth), who, like Dunham, had a hysterectomy to treat endometriosis. Unlike Dunham, Sarah Jo received hers as a teenager, and the trauma from the procedure left the character emotionally stunted in adolescence. When the film picks up, she’s ready to have sex and, get this, she wants to have sex with Jon Bernthal.
Here’s the synopsis:
Sarah Jo is a sensitive and naive 26-year-old living on the fringes of Hollywood with her disillusioned mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and influencer sister (Taylour Paige). Working as a caregiver and just longing to be seen, she begins an exploratory affair with her older, married employer, and is thrust into a startling education on sexuality, loss and power.
The trailer brings to mind one of Dunham’s greatest directorial achievements, the 2013 Girls episode “One Man’s Trash,” in which Dunham’s Hannah moves in with Patrick Wilson for a few days. Taking over for Patrick Wilson, Bernthal plays Josh, the husband of Dunham’s extremely pregnant Heather.
In our review from Sundance earlier this year, we were mostly positive on Sharp Stick, with Katie Rife writing:
There are interesting ideas about sex, relationships, bodies, family, and how we present ourselves to the world in this hodgepodge of a film. And Dunham does show progress, both in terms of the diversity of her casting and pushing the limits of her style. If you’re not already a fan of her work, this film probably won’t convert you. But there’s a specific wavelength of person who may find it touching in a very personal way.
Sharp Stick opens in New York City and Los Angeles on July 29 and nationwide on August 5.