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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Learning more about yourself requires courage and radical curiosity.
Positive Role Models
Sarah Jo is positive in the sense that she takes it upon herself to learn more about her sexuality and her definition of beauty. She's able to expand her personal thoughts about herself but does it in a way that some viewers might not be able to empathize with or be willing to personally try.
Dunham has an uneven track record around representation. So the fact that the cast does have racial diversity (including Janicza Bravo, director of Zola, and Taylour Paige) is a plus. But Dunham's iffy lens on Blackness is still present in the sexualization of Treina's body and dancing. In fact, the two prominent Black people in Sarah Jo's life -- her sister, Treina, and stranger-turned-lover Arvin -- are defined by their sexuality. Treina is an "Instagram vixen," and Arvin works in the porn industry (and, of course, becomes a sexual partner for Sarah Jo). In final scene of Arvin and Sarah Jo having sex, a pair of Black female hands starts caressing Sarah Jo's head -- intended as an artistic representation of Sarah Jo finding her personal sexual freedom. But this choice could be seen as perpetuating the idea that Black people are inherently sexual. Plus, Sarah Jo's journey of self-discovery is defined by men rather than her actual preferences, wants, and needs. That said, disability representation is positive here, with Sarah Jo taking care of kids who have Down syndrome and use a wheelchair, respectively.
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Violence & Scariness
One mention of/allusion to domestic violence.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Many explicit sex scenes with graphic nudity, some more gratuitous than others. Scenes with masturbation (including in which Sarah Jo might be masturbating at the kitchen table across from her sister and mother). Frequent use of sexual language and explicit lyrics from Khia's "My Neck My Back." A character's frequent consumption of yogurt seems intended to be seen as a suggestive act.
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Extremely strong language: "f--k," "f---ing," "s--t," "bitch," "hell," a--hole." Sexual language including "d--k prison," "p---y," "t-tties," "cream pie," "bukkake," "anal," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink, smoke pot, and snort cocaine. Mentions of Percocet and anesthesia (for its sedative "high" effects, even though it was used in a medical setting).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sharp Stick is a very mature coming-of-age film written and directed by Lena Dunham. It centers on Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth), a 26-year-old woman who has a sexual awakening after starting an affair with her employer's husband. Expect explicit sex scenes, nudity, and very strong language, including both swear words ("f--k," "s--t," and more) and sexual terms ("anal," "d--k," etc.). Characters also smoke pot, drink, and snort cocaine, and there's an allusion to domestic violence. Viewers who find orifices, body parts, and/or sexual acts distasteful may find it difficult to watch. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
A young woman striking out to learn more about herself and her sexuality is the core of a good story, but if you're easily put off by explicit sexual content, then it's not for you. And even if you're OK with the more graphic scenes, Sharp Stick disappoints by defining its Black characters solely through sexuality. Given Dunham's iffy history with how she portrayed (or didn't portray) Black people on Girls, it's clear that she's trying to make up for it here -- but she still falls short.
Dunham's hard-core fans will enjoy watching Sharp Stick to see her eccentricities coming through in the script. And the actors, including Froseth, give strong performances. It's just a lot to ask of some audience members to sit through a ton of sex that has little artfulness or beauty involved.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.