Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Sharp Stick (Film Review)

3 min read

has been out of the mainstream since Girls ended in 2017. Much controversy and angst surrounded the TV series but didn't capture the essence that her feature film, Tiny Furniture, had created. As this was the film that seem to be her breakthrough and what got her a blank deal with HBO, you would think the inspiration would leak through to the series. Now, 12 years after her last film, Dunham brings us Sharp Stick which actually has some of the same humour as her breakthrough. But it is clear Dunham has changed and developed over the years, reflected in this story and its characters.

After having a radical hysterectomy as a young teenager, Sarah Jo, now 26 years old, has never felt her age. Listening to her mother and sister's stories about sex and men, Sarah Jo takes it upon herself to try and experience things for herself. After losing her virginity to her married much older employer, they embark on an illicit affair. She starts to lose focus on her career, being a carer for special needs and disabled children and thinks about nothing else apart from sex, even going as far as writing a letter to her favourite porn star, Vance Leroy. It's only a matter of time before her world comes to a halt.

It is not completely apparent that this is a comedy, but that is Dunham's style. From the conversations between Treina, Sarah Jo's sister and her mother Marilyn to the blunt moments with the various men she has sexual encounters with from an app, there are plenty of comedic scenes. But as the comedy is to the point, over honest or sometimes so ridiculous that they feel very relatable, it takes a beat before you remember that this is indeed a comedy and not just a story about one woman's sexual awakening.

What is never really addressed and given little explanation is why Sarah Jo has waited all this time to have sex in any shape or form. Her family seem very open about sex and even though the advice her mother spouts isn't directed at her, Sarah Jo takes it out of context to try and makes sense of sex for herself. Her first-time having sex is a bizarre reveal of her hysterectomy and she manages to compliment Josh, her employer while also semi demanding that he have sex with her. She is somewhat unfeeling and doesn't seem to care or understand about foreplay or oral sex. It is also abruptly ended when Josh comes too quick and breaks down in tears. It's a strange exchange that isn't passionate or clinical but really does set the tone for the rest of Sarah Jo's exploration into sex, porn and random encounters with strangers, demanding that they perform or she perform that one thing with them, checking her list as she goes.

What Sarah Jo seems to be to understand is the ‘how' of sex instead of the pleasure. But without really knowing the reason why she has had no interest or exploration until now, we can only assume it was about timing. She felt it was time she experienced something she felt she missed out on. Whether you do consider this a coming of sexual awakening or a comedy or both, there is nothing profound but there is something to enjoy within this film.

Sharp Stick is available now on all digital platforms