Film review: 'Sharp Stick' | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, May 25th, 2022  

Sharp Stick

Studio: Filmnation Entertainment
Director: Lena Dunham

Jan 23, 2022 Web Exclusive
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Sharp Stick, Lena Dunham’s first feature film in 11 years, is a brutally disinteresting and obnoxious coming-of-age story that has a lot to say but little to take away.

The film follows Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth), a kindhearted 26-year old caregiver who lives with her mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her influencer sister (Taylour Paige). She isn’t entirely sure about what she wants to do in life, often sitting idly in the background as her mother and sister talk about their own lives, but she yearns for any sort of experience. Desperate to lose her virginity, Sarah Jo begins flirting with Josh (Jon Bernthal), the married father of the child that she cares for. The two begin having an affair, leading Sarah Jo on a physical and emotional journey of self-discovery.

While Sharp Stick has an extremely straightforward premise, the film lacks clear direction. Dunham’s film constantly tries to mix heavy dramatic beats with light comedic moments, but cannot find a mature and reasonable balance between the two. The result is a film that isn’t funny enough to be considered a comedy, using cheap one-liners to try and get a laugh out of viewers, nor serious enough to be considered a drama, moving far too quickly for any of the film’s conflicts to feel believable. Additionally, a narrative twist that takes place halfway through the film makes the film’s two halves feel like two completely different movies, with strikingly dissimilar themes and tones. Watching these confounding ideas clash during the span of just 86 minutes makes it even harder to comprehend what the point of Sharp Stick is, and raises the question of whether Dunham’s film even has a point at all.

The main flaw of Sharp Stick, though, is the film’s characters. It’s difficult to root for, or sympathize with, Sarah Jo’s character because she is written as thinly as possible. From the beginning of the film, she isn’t given any sort of distinct personality, making it hard for viewers to comprehend how each narrative event changes her outlook on herself or the world around her. Empty characters stretch across the film’s entire ensemble, as most of the supporting characters are only used to occupy screen space or to quickly assist Sarah Jo in her coming-of-age journey before disappearing from the story. As a result, none of the film’s characters are interesting nor likable enough to connect with, making it even more difficult to care about what happens to them. (festival.sundance.org)

Author rating: 4/10

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