The “dropping your virginity” cinematic subgenre will get an intriguing spin in Sharp Stick. That is the primary movie Lena Dunham has written and directed since 2011’s Tiny Furnishings. Within the intervening decade, she affected each tv (for the higher, I’d say) and on-line discourse (unquestionably for the more serious, although it’s not as if that may actually be blamed on her) together with her hit present Women. Amongst different issues, that collection was identified for its often-bracing strategy to sexuality, and Dunham applies that very same sensibility right here, although to rather more delicate ends than the frequent cringiness of Women.
Sara Jo (Christine Froseth) is extra unworldly than one would assume a Los Angeles Gen-Zer not cloistered by faith might be. Although 26 years previous, she is aware of nearly nothing about issues of intercourse — her preliminary interpretation of what a “blowjob” means is totally literal. A brutal bout of endometriosis brought about her to have a hysterectomy at 15 and undergo menopause at 17, leaving her trepidatious about intercourse ever since. “I don’t really feel my age, and I don’t really feel my physique,” she says. However she desires to vary that, and decides to get proactive about lastly doing the deed. Sadly, she decides the most effective man for the job is her employer, Josh (Joe Bernthal working on the top of his himbo powers). She acts as a caretaker for his youngster with Heather (Dunham); the younger boy lives with Down syndrome. Josh is reticent, however solely for so long as it takes for her — and him, in fact — to speak himself into it. The affair goes about in addition to you anticipate, and within the aftermath of heartbreak, Sara Jo resolves to take additional management of her sexuality by making a guidelines of acts to carry out and get extra expertise below her belt (so to talk).
Froseth is acutely attuned to the particulars of an offbeat character who may have simply been too annoying, too unbelievable, too uncomfortable to observe, or in any other case off in 100 other ways. The movie’s most spectacular feat is that it manages to string a exact needle with Sara Jo, with Froseth and Dunham’s script and route managing to make her journey equal components attractive, discomfiting, awkward, and endearing. The film is coping with a multitude of tough questions round consent and company, and understands that it’s extra necessary to let the protagonist observe an arc that is smart than it’s to carry the viewer’s hand with pat solutions to any of those points. Sara Jo is an grownup and totally is aware of what she desires, however she’s additionally terribly naive, and the movie has to work by this example with out being overly valuable about her.
The place the film does stumble, it largely does so due to its refusal to clarify what Sara Jo’s “deal” is. At first viewing, I believed this was an admirably non-condescending story about an an individual dwelling with undiagnosed autisim, however then shortly earlier than the Sundance premiere, it emerged that the creators can’t fairly resolve whether or not Sara Jo is meant to be neurodivergent (their present line is that she is just not). For a movie that finds its biggest affect in specificity, that vagueness might be irritating. Sharp Stick doesn’t all the time stick the touchdown with its thematic gymnastics, however it nonetheless manages a formidable routine.
Sharp Stick is now taking part in in choose theaters, and can be out there on VOD August 16.