Lena Dunham is an award winning filmmaker and actress who became a household name thanks to her work on HBO Max’s Girls. In the years since its 2017 finale, she’s worked on a variety of other TV/film projects like HBO's Generation. She's also been working behind and in front of the camera, including a role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Dunham's about to release her new dramedy film Sharp Stick, which will arrive in theaters this weekend. And the multihyphenate spoke to CinemaBlend about portraying infertility on screen.
Sharp Stick was written and directed by Lena Dunham (with some help by Taylor Swift), and she also plays a supporting role in the film. The movie focuses on Kristine Froseth’s character Sarah Jo, who is a 26 year-old babysitter that underwent a hysterectomy as a teenager. The audience gets to hear her unique story when Sarah Jo has a long, rambling monologue about her intense medical past opposite Jon Bernthal’s latest unexpected character. I had the privilege of speaking with Dunham and Froseth about their work on Sharp Stick, where they cued me into the crafting of that particular sequence. The movie’s lead actress described what it was like sharing her character’s medical history and the fallout that comes after, saying:
Lena Dunham is certainly a writer with a very specific voice, as seen in the myriad quotable lines throughout Girls’ run on TV. As Kristine Froseth points out, that was also the case in the Sharp Stick monologue where Sarah Jo discloses her hysterectomy. It’s a powerful moment for the audiences and characters alike, as that’s the catalyst for the character’s affair with Josh.
In our same conversation, Lena Dunham also revealed how she crafted the scene where the history behind Sarah Jo’s infertility was revealed. It’s a sequence that has a ton of layers, aside from it being groundbreaking in regards to visibility and onscreen representation. It was also a technical challenge, as Dunham shared:
While Mary Jo’s infertility isn’t the main plot point of Sharp Stick, it’s an important aspect of her backstory that informs the protagonist’s motivation throughout the film’s 86-minute runtime. As such, Lena Dunham had this on her mind when writing other scenes throughout the movie. That includes a long sequence featuring the great Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Mary Jo’s mother in Sharp Stick, and she (unsurprisingly) gives a stellar performance. One particularly great scene has Leigh revealing the “origin story” behind her two daughters. Lena Dunham explained how and why this scene was crafted, and the ways its connected to Mary Jo’s medical history. As she told me,
She’s not wrong. Jennifer Jason Leigh is a legendary actress who has worked with the greats over the years. Therefore Lena Dunham was able to write and direct a long monologue for the actress, knowing she’d be able to keep the attention of the audience. And as such, the heart of the story could be further explored in a less obvious way.
Moviegoers will be able to see Sharp Stick for themselves shortly, as it opens in select theaters July 29th. In the meantime, check out the 2022 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience.
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Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.