Monday, April 22, 2024

Sundance: Lena Dunham’s First Big Project After “Girls” is About Porn And All Its Glories

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First let me say that I think Lena Dunham is an excellent writer. Between “Tiny Furniture” and many episodes of “Girls,” I was always impressed.

So “Sharp Stick.” her first new big project, is a disappointment. There are flashes of Dunham’s wit and intellectual vigor, but basically she’s decided to drift into porn, and how a shy, 26 year old girl becomes obsessed with it. “Sharp Stick” is the charmless flip side of Sean Baker’s “Red Rocket.”

“Sharp Stick,” as opposed to Dunham’s other credits, has a lot of unpleasantness, too. It’s the story of Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth) who lives above her mother’s apartment (Jennifer Jason Leigh) which is also shared by her foster sister (Taylor Paige). They are an odd group, very John Waters- like, and the Waters references don’t end there.

Sarah Jo is 26, a self proclaimed virgin who works with developmentally challenged kids. One of them has for parents a pregnant Dunham and Jon Bernthal. Talk about an odd couple. Dunham resembles Divine in this movie. Bernthal is her studly husband whom Sarah Jo successfully propositions. These two embark on a loop of sex and cheating that seems to not to affect Sarah Jo’s conscience one bit.

Indeed, Sarah Jo’s obsession with screwing Bernthal’s Josh for some reason leads her into a deep dive into the world of porn. She takes it on like a PhD, vowing to have as many kinds of sex as she can while fantasizing about a porn star she finds on the internet (Scott Speedman, far from “Grey’s Anatomy).

“Sharp Stick” is like the opposite of “Ladybird.” It’s a coming of age story you’d rather not know about. While the actors are charismatic on their own, Dunham does nothing for them. I’m going to consider this film a weird pandemic digression, Dunham getting back to work so she had to start somewhere. Whatever she does next will have to be a major leap forward.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
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