Lena Dunham Returns To Feature Directing With ‘Sharp Stick’: Review – Deadline

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Lena Dunham hasn’t made a function movie since Tiny Furniture 12 years in the past, however she has some believable excuses—working Girls for six seasons, conceiving one other collection, writing two books, performing right here and there. It took the pandemic to get her behind the digital camera once more and, low and behold, the ensuing movie is about folks dwelling in very shut quarters, not going out a lot and, a minimum of for some, having a number of intercourse. Sharp Stick brims over with the power of younger individuals who wished to make one thing, shortly and down and soiled. The result’s an invigorating movie about a gorgeous lady who, in her mid-20s, sheds her lifelong avoidance of intercourse to dive into the deep finish. The FilmNation manufacturing is making its world premiere within the Premieres part of this yr’s competition.


It’s pretty protected to say that no movie has ever centered on a protagonist with an defined sexual historical past fairly like that of the primary character. But that may wait a second, because it takes some time to make sense of the moderately sophisticated dwelling preparations at a modest house in Los Angeles’ Atwater neighborhood.

The handsome, good-for-nothing man of the home is speed-talking Josh (Jon Bernthal), an incurable philanderer with an extreme eagerness to please who nonetheless has some key life classes to study (and possibly by no means will). Dunham performs his soon-expecting spouse Heather, whose candy younger son has psychological points and is taken care of by nanny Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth), a stunner who all the time wears a smile and has a selfless character that warms all in her neighborhood.

The latter’s mother Marilyn (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is an condo supervisor, whereas Black adopted sister Treina (Taylour Paige), a membership promoter, has restricted endurance for household shenanigans. In brief, the family is one thing of a zoo filled with impulsives, none of whom precisely have their acts collectively.

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Kristine Froseth and Jon Bernthal in Lena Dunham’s “Sharp Stick”

Sex has all the time performed a serious function in Dunham’s creations and by no means extra so than right here, the place issues get very sophisticated in a short time. At least vaguely conscious of his immaturity, Zach bends over backwards to confess his want for self-improvement. But an outdated hound canine by no means dies, apparently, and when, in a personal second, Sarah Jo confides to him that at 26 she’s nonetheless a virgin and would love him to remedy her of this situation, the gentleman can’t discover a strategy to refuse.

There is a startling cause Sarah Jo hasn’t let anybody into her life, or pants: She had a radical hysterectomy at 15. Now, nonetheless, she desires to maneuver ahead and senses she’ll be in good fingers with outdated professional Zach, who, it unsurprisingly seems, was a porn star. Sarah Jo and the movie obtain profitable lift-off right here, and depart it to Dunham to provide you with all method of sexual and dramatic permutations that ship Sharp Stick flying in all types of sudden instructions.

As it her wont, the writer-director doubles down on this set-up to insure that Sarah Jo makes up for misplaced time. She begins writing to porn stars she notably admires, praising them for his or her particular skills. She creates lengthy lists of variations she desires to attempt—Eiffel Tower, jackhammer and creampie, only for starters—and you may simply think about Dunham’s merriment growing by the minute as she sends Sarah Jo out on her long-delayed sexual odyssey.

As amusing as it’s, this latter stretch quickly begins to really feel a bit foolish and indulgent; as a substitute of settling into an a minimum of marginally critical take a look at how adolescent sexual trauma has deeply messed with a younger lady’s life, it feels extra as if we’re at some Las Vegas conference devoted to the newest in intercourse toys. Yes, we’re seeing and listening to stuff right here we could by no means have seen in a mainstream movie earlier than, nevertheless it all begins to really feel a bit outrageous only for outrageousness’ sake.

Nonetheless, the scenes and characters right here really feel freshly minted and alive, and most of Dunham’s outrageous gambits repay in sudden humor; few go the place she goes and win the way in which she does. As ever, her characters are loaded with foibles which are usually so dramatic as to sideline nuance. All the identical, the movie captures an correct Covid-era snapshot of short-tempered folks getting on every others’ nerves as a result of unnaturally and indefinitely protracted want to stay cooped up, generally in teams that by no means would have chosen such prolonged shut proximity.

As addled, annoyed and sidelined as almost all of the characters are underneath the extraordinary situations, they nonetheless aren’t very totally different from Dunham’s—and most comedians’—common assortment of neurotics. She’s made good use of her enforced enclosure.

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