Review by Tatiana Miranda
Sharp Stick is exactly what one would expect from a Lena Dunham-written and directed flick, which is seemingly the heart of the film's successful storytelling. The movie follows the naive 26-year-old Sarah Jo as she navigates her newfound sexuality. Adorned in ribbons and frilly vintage dresses, Sarah Jo appears to be inadvertently coquettish. Her Lolita-style clothing and childlike attitude are what make her a great babysitter to Kevin, and what makes it so uncomfortable to watch as she pursues an affair with Kevin's married dad, Josh. Still, Sarah Jo's innocence through her style and personality doesn't prohibit her from exploring and experiencing every facet of the sexually active experience.
To those unfamiliar with Lena Dunham's comically blunt writing, Sharp Stick might appear to be disorienting and awkward, with characters appearing in ways unlike real people. Yet, to those who've read her book or watched her hit show Girls, it's clear that Sarah Jo's inelegant and problematic actions are representative of Dunham's own personality. Because of this, Sarah Jo's trials and triumphs appear all the more distinctive. The plot of Sharp Stick is simple, reminiscent of The To Do List with its attempt to represent a coming-of-age story of sexual liberation, but Dunham's personal additions to the story are what makes the movie unlike anything seen before.
Beyond Sarah Jo's tale of innocence and exploration of sexuality, Sharp Stick is also centered around her acceptance of growing up with endometriosis. Her scars from childhood surgeries are integral to how she perceives her body and the way it works, noting to Josh before they begin their affair that there is no chance of her getting pregnant because of it. This idea of sexual liberation with seemingly no restrictions is what causes Sarah Jo's curiosity to go out of control, as she attempts to master sex through hook-ups. The climax of the film appears as she realizes her perception of sex is ruined, although, in true Lena Dunham fashion, that doesn't stop her from continuing her sexual conquests.
Sharp Stick is one of a kind in terms of plot, characters, and aesthetic. It carries all of the quirkiness from the writer-director herself and transcends it to be a heartfelt look into femininity, illness, and sexuality. The film's performances are all cohesive to one another, while still standouts in their individual ways. After an eleven-year hiatus, Lena Dunham brings her all to Sharp Stick.
Sharp Stick is now in theaters and hits VOD on August 16.