Sharp Stick Sundance Review

by Jason Osiason

There will be no film at this year’s Sundance that will contain more brilliant and unadulterated wit yet be polarizing due to its uncomfortable content than Lena Dunham’s Sharp Stick, the long-awaited follow-up to Tiny Furniture and HBO’s Girls. It explores the sexual odyssey of Sarah Jo, a naive young adult long affected by the trauma of an emergency hysterectomy that left her scarred and emotionally stunted. The film’s first half dives in as the character is a Nanny to a wealthy couple played by Jon Bernthal and Lena Dunham herself.  Quickly Sarah Jo develops feelings her Bernthal’s Jon character. Jon is a despicable character that cannot resist any temptations in his way. Despite Joe throwing herself at him, he’s still basically grooming someone he can take advantage of, and we soon learn this is always true to his nature. Despite how morally reprehensible the character is, it’s one of Bernthal’s best performances ever, the exact sort of emotionally immature man-child who’s also found himself in unfaithful situations time and time again. Still, this short-lived and lurid fling triggers a sexual awakening in Sarah Jo that leads her to become addicted to pornography and the dirtiest of sex acts that she plans to conquer like it’s her very own bucket list while idolizing her porn-star “teachers.”

Dunham’s affectless characters, bleak subject matter, and depressing dirtying-up of sex make her an almost spiritual successor to the always influential Todd Solondz, but this is written by a clear female writer, and that’s very evident by its feminist themes and overall backbone, showcasing Dunham is no imitator and conjuring a film so unique and endlessly exciting. Bound to make audiences uncomfortable, a talent Dunham flexed constantly on her HBO, I hope Sharp Stick finds its deserved audience in due time. It not only touches on sex from the wounded life of a 26-year-old but the perversion and loneliness that accompanies it.  Kristine Froseth defines a breakout performance with such naturalness and innocence transfixed that it’s a complex performance not long to think about far after the credits have finished rolling. The filmmaking itself is candy-coated and caters to unexpectedly delicious cinematography. Sharp Stick is erotic, bizarre, and has a darkly humorous sensibility, and is one of the most daring pieces of cinematic content Lena Dunham or anyone will likely premiere for the rest of the year. [A-]

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