Upon its release in 2010, Tiny Furniture heralded Lena Dunham as a bold new voice in independent filmmaking. Of course, she then pivoted to television, creating and starring on HBO's Girls and earning eight Emmy Award nominations across the series run. Now, more than a decade later, Dunham returns to features with Sharp Stick.
Kristine Froseth stars as naïve 20-something Sarah Jo, who begins an affair with a married man (Jon Bernthal) and gets a frank education in sex and sexuality. Dunham co-stars as the pregnant wife of Bernthal's character, with a cast that also includes Jennifer Jason Leigh (a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for The Hateful Eight), Taylour Paige, Luka Sabbat, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Scott Speedman.
"It's a joke as old as celluloid that the minute we spot a sexually active girl in a horror movie, we know she's going to die in a blood death," Dunham explains in a statement. "She's let someone touch her below the neck, and so she's marked for murder. But there's a more subtle crime we commit toward women on camera, where female characters who dare to take a journey sexually may not get full-on murdered, but they do endure another kind of torture — one more exquisite and subtle."
The writer and director continues, "It's a torture of judgment, of questioning, of self-doubt and loneliness and regret over choices that should ultimately just be part of the fabric of self-actualization in that same way it can be for their male counterparts. Interrogating these cinematic iniquities, I began to imagine a character whose sexual journey would be totally unique, unmarred by shame or self-hate or the projections of others. She would use sex not to destroy her body but to heal it from a history of medicalized trauma and cultural projection."
Sharp Stick opens in theaters in New York and L.A. on July 31 and nationwide on Aug. 5, followed by a digital release beginning Aug. 16. Watch the red band trailer below.