‘Sharp Stick’ Trailer: Lena Dunham Directs a Stripped-Down Jon Bernthal in Sexual Awakening Dramedy

"Sharp Stick" is here to smack the "innate judgment and shame of female desire" out of a stigmatized culture.
So says writer, director and star Lena Dunham, who is directing her second feature film, which debuted at Sundance this year. Sharp Stick centers on nurse Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth) who begins an affair with her married boss, Josh (Jon Bernthal). But when Josh returns to his wife, Heath (Dunham), Sarah Jo is thrown into a whirlpool of self-exploration and sexual healing. Watch the trailer for the film below.
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"It's a joke as old as celluloid that the moment we see a sexually active girl in a horror film, we know she's going to die a blood death," Dunham said in a statement accompanying the film. "She let someone touch her below the neck and that's why she's marked for murder. But there's a more subtle crime we commit against women on camera, where female characters who dare to embark on a sexual journey may not be murdered outright, but endure a different kind of torture -- a more exquisite and subtle one ."
Dunham continued, "It's a torture of judgement, of questioning, of self-doubt and loneliness and regret over decisions that ultimately should only be part of the fabric of self-actualization as it can be for their male counterparts. As I questioned these cinematic injustices, I began to envision a character whose sexual journey would be entirely unique, unhampered by shame or self-loathing or the projections of others. She didn't use sex to destroy her body, but to heal it from a history of medicalized trauma and cultural projection.”
"Zola" breakout Taylour Paige stars and co-producers the film, which also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Luka Sabbat, Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Scott Speedman. "Zola" director Janicza Bravo also has a cameo appearance.
Lead actor Bernthal, who recently made headlines for an Emmy-worthy performance on HBO's We Run This City, also portrays a male prostitute in the upcoming American Gigolo series.
"I don't think I have any natural sex appeal," Bernthal said, despite being a sex symbol on Sharp Stick and Gigolo. "I've always thought of myself as this weird looking guy."
He added that taking on both romantic leads has "a really palpable sense of 'I'm the wrong guy for this'." I can't'" which inspired him to "run headlong towards fear."
Next, Dunham is writing, directing and producing another coming-of-age film (albeit in a very different vein), Catherine, Called Birdy for Prime Video, an adaptation of Karen Cushman's 1996 novel of the same name.
Sharp Stick premieres in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles on July 29, followed by a nationwide rollout on August 5. The film will be available to stream on digital platforms starting August 16th.
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Lena Dunham
American author, director, actress and producer
Taylor Paige
American actress and dancer

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