Jon Bernthal stan accounts, batten down your hatches: The first trailer for Lena Dunham’s new coming-of-age comedy Sharp Stick is finally here, and Bernthal manages to charm his way through the majority of its 230 seconds, gold chains and biceps galore. Hallelujah.
The trailer opens in flashback with star Kristine Froseth, who plays Sarah Jo, taking to her vintage white Macbook to Google the time-honored phrase that so many of us did growing up, “Two People Having Sex Together.” Some of us were starting our searches with “Muscle man,” but hey, everyone’s journey toward sexual freedom is different, and that’s what Sharp Stick is all about.
“I’m not someone who is destined for love, so when it appears in my path, I have to take it,” a mid-20s Sarah Jo then confidently states, bringing us forward to the film’s present-day timeline. For her, that love comes in the form of her dreamy, older, married employer, Josh, played by Bernthal. Sarah Jo is determined to act on her love for Josh, even if it means potentially ruining his marriage to his wife Heather, played by Dunham, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child.
Say what you will about Lena Dunham, but casting yourself as the wife of one of Hollywood’s hottest leading men is an instantly iconic move, one that deserves just as much praise as all of Girls. Sharp Stick is Dunham’s first major return to filmmaking since her tepid one-season HBO series Camping in 2018, and it looks to be a major return to form for the controversial writer. The film echoes the confused relatability of navigating your 20s that Dunham so deftly put on display in her first feature film, 2010’s Tiny Furniture.
After their affair is uncovered, Josh returns to his wife, making Sarah Jo wonder if his decision means that she’s bad at sex. This sends her on a fierce exploration of the power that lies within her sexuality. “No one will ever have the chance to do this to me again,” she says, while setting up a ring light to take sexy selfies for a website called “Clitty Clitty Bang Bang.” Start engraving the Oscar now, because nothing is beating that. I’m dead serious.
Helping Sarah Jo navigate the dark and dazzling world of desire are her adopted sister, Treina (Taylour Paige, fresh off a fierce star turn in last summer’s Zola), and her mother Marilyn, played by the incomparable Jennifer Jason Leigh. Treina and Marilyn are Sarah Jo’s fearless tour guides into the world of sex. “I feel like I was born with a crush,” Treina tells her sister. “I was, like, in the nursery crushing on a fetus.” Finally, some accurate representation for the perpetually crushing, horny freaks out there. Kudos to Lena Dunham for finally moving toward accurate depictions of the marginalized!
Sharp Stick premiered at Sundance earlier this year to unsurprisingly divided reviews. Dunham called the film her “most personal project yet” during the film’s screening, but some critics found it to be lacking depth in its portrayal of sexuality.
But the great thing about Dunham’s work is that it so often does divide people, reaching some and alienating others. That’s what makes her voice so strong. We could use a film that draws out some complicated feelings, posing as many questions about life and our autonomy as it does straightforward answers. Plus, we’re happy to have something, anything, to come out of this summer that’s not another god-forsaken Marvel movie. I’ll take Jon Bernthal’s boobs over green-screened schlock any day.
Sharp Stick opens in select cities on July 29 and nationwide on August 5.