Written by: Lena Dunham
Starring: Kristine Froseth, Jon Bernthal, Luka Sabbat, Scott Speedman, Lena Dunham
Sexuality is such an integral and vibrant aspect of being human, as it comes as part of our nature. The initial discovery of this most commonly happens outwardly during puberty, but many argue it all starts at a much younger age, even if we don’t realize it. Now imagine if this were happening at the ripe age of 26, where we follow this odd journey of sexual flourishing. Sharp Stick tries to navigate this journey but completely falls on its face because of its head-scratching circumstances and lackluster execution.
Young and innocent Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth) spends her days doing admirable work like helping children with disabilities, and with her latest assignment, she gains an attraction for the father of one of her students, Josh (John Bernthal). The mutual attraction leads to Sarah Jo losing her virginity to him, which unlocks a whole new world she has not been privy to despite being 26 years old.
The premise of this feature is beyond silly, not in a way where Sarah Jo could not possibly be as naive sexually at the age of 26, but everything around her makes it absolutely preposterous that she is so obtuse about sex. There is no rule that individuals have to be sexually active before they turn 26, but one thing really holding Sharp Stick back is the odd sense of innocence put on Sarah Jo that turns her almost into a child even though she is nearing 30. Not only in her lack of knowledge in the world of sex, but also in the way she dresses and generally acts. If this character was not played by an actor who’s obviously an adult and you just see the general demeanor of this character, you would assume she’s a prepubescent teenager, which makes the sexual relationship she has with this older man appear to be an exercise in trying to create a fantasy of a young and inexperienced girl but with the protection of her already being an adult. It creates a completely strange dynamic. I mean, there’s even a scene where this 26-year-old woman is asking if a blowjob is actually blowing on a penis. Need I say more?
It also does not line up with the rest of the individuals around her, as she has a mother who shares several stories of her sexual conquests and a sister who more than flaunts her sexuality with others and on social media. It makes it even more shocking how Sarah Jo can be so childlike, and that just makes the rest of this story just uncomfortable to sit through. She’s essentially a child on an emotional level, and the route this film takes with her continuing to explore her sexuality raises so many more red flags. Yes, this is something I’m hung up on, but with good reason seeing as it’s so fundamental to the story. It’s almost like Lena Dunham wanted to create some fantasy world for this to take place, but then continually adds real-world elements to it that shatter any other fantastical sense she may be trying to craft. This simply leaves the film just treading water and begging to stay afloat, as the narrative just has nowhere to go that can be deemed interesting, especially when it comes to the development of the central character.
Alongside Sarah Jo, you do have her sister, Treina (Taylor Paige), and mother, Marilyn (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who in their moments of screen time bring so much compared to the main narrative of the feature. The moments where they are injected into the story carry some intrigue into the lives they are living. This film needed so much more out of them and it ultimately feels like these two actors were completely wasted as compared to what they could have added to the story. We would have been better off just following them instead of Sarah Jo and it would have made for a much better feature film.
In all honesty, this film comes in dead on arrival as its premise just could not come together into anything other than a strangely perverse tale of sexual exploration. It comes down to the writer/director of the feature, Lena Dunham, who has found success in the past writing about the sexuality of young women. However, what she chose to craft in this feature just leaves for some negative wincing experiences and something I would have expected to come from a middle-aged man who really finds a woman too young for him attractive and wants to make a movie about it.