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SHARP STICK: 2 ½ STARS. “the journey is the film’s least interesting element.”   

Frank and provocative, “Sharp Stick,” the new film written and directed by “Girls” creator and star Lena Dunham, returns to familiar ground with a sexual coming-of-age story.

Kristine Froseth stars as 26-year-old Sarah Jo. A sexually inexperienced woman who had a hysterectomy at age 17, she still lives at home with her mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and wannabe Instagram influencer sister (Taylour Paige). She scraps by, babysitting for Zach, son of Josh (Jon Bernthal) and Heather (Dunham). Heather is pregnant, and Josh has a wandering eye, which happens to land on the flirty Sarah Jo.

Their ”affair” culminates with a tryst on the floor of a cramped laundry room, setting Sarah Jo off on a journey of sexual discovery involving  lots of pornography, a fixation on adult film star Vance Leroy (the ornately tattooed Scott Speedman) and carefully organized, random “educational” hook-ups.

“Sharp Stick” reverberates with echoes of the frankness of “Girls” and the edgy work of filmmakers like Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, but never rises to the level of any of those namechecks.

Dunham has woven some interesting characters to surround Sarah Jo, like her mother Marilyn, played by Leigh, a much-divorced Hollywood hanger-on and twerking sister Treina, but she hasn’t given her main character any real depth. She is thirsty for carnal knowledge, and approaches it like a job, with a check list to boot, but aside from the humor inherent in that, Sarah Jo’s arc simply isn’t that interesting. Her desperation to prove to herself and others is repetitive, her actions so naïve they suggest her emotional age is far less than her stated age of 26. Given her mother’s openness regarding sex, it doesn’t ring true that Sarah Jo is completely unfamiliar with anything to do with sexuality.

“Sharp Stick” does have a few funny scenes, an interesting character or three, and an uncomfortable but refreshing candidness about sex but, by the time the end credits roll, Sarah Jo’s journey is the film’s least interesting element.

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