Lena Dunham’s bold new sex drama – The Hollywood Reporter

Lena Dunham has always been controversial – as a writer, director, actress and public figure. In a decade since she appeared on the scene with her feature Tiny furniture, Dunham has worked consistently on both the big screen and the small screen, becoming a much-debated figure in popular culture. Every accomplishments and flaws were discussed live and offline, with a deep focus on her work, body, and personal life. Dunham wears many hats, and people have strong opinions about each hat.

So it fits her new feature, Timbre, as strange and provocative as its title and pedigree suggest. Written and directed by Dunham amid a pandemic with a predominantly female team, Timbre is a daring sex film that amazes in the pursuit of female pleasure. For better or for worse, this was Dunham’s most liberating in years in a liberal tone, shedding years of silence and scrutiny.


Key point

Bold, messy and singular.

Location: Sundance Film Festival (Premier)

Screenwriter-Director: Lena Dunham

Cast: Kristine Froseth, Jon Bernthal, Scott Speedman, Lena Dunham, Taylor Paige, Jennifer Jason Leigh

1 hour 26 minutes

A poignant tale of family and sex, Timbre draws the line between coming-of-age story and sex comedy, creating an eerie blend of irony and sincerity. But instead of making grand observations about what it means to be a woman today, Dunham simply observes a young woman entering the adult world in an epic, eerie style and completely unique.

The film tells the story of Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth), a 26-year-old childish woman who lives with her older sister Treina (Taylour Paige) and mother Marilyn (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in Southern California. Sarah Jo, bursting with optimistic eyes, is the kind of person who loves people, with a desire to really listen to their problems. There’s something almost old-worldly about Sarah Jo, who has the clothes of a 1950s teenager and the manners of an eager schoolgirl. She spends her days helping her host mother, taking videos of her influential sister and listening intently to their stories of sexual exploitation and romance.

Instead of going on dates or hanging out with friends, Sarah Jo just ventures out of the house to care for Zach (Liam Michel Saux), a young autistic boy with busy, pregnant mother, Heather (Dunham). ), and the unreliable father, Josh (Jon Bernthal). Sarah Jo really loves her job, showing real warmth and natural motherly instincts to Zach.

Unfortunately, due to a radical hysterectomy in high school, Sarah Jo was unable to have children and appears to have skipped the teenage sexual exploration phase entirely. She is a virgin and exhibits a surprisingly limited understanding of love and sex. Everything changes when she sets her eyes on Josh, attracting Josh’s attention, his easygoing and cheerful nature while ignoring the dangerous risks of adultery.

Though he initially rejects her, Josh quickly succumbs to Sarah Jo’s uncanny charms, and they begin a passionate affair. He takes her virginity, introduces her to hallucinogens, and makes empty promises to leave his wife and start a new life with her and Zach. Early on, it became clear where the relationship was headed, but that was only the starting point for her awakening, not the destination. When Josh introduces Sarah Jo to porn, the film shifts to exploring sexual technique as she tries to rush through years of sexual exploration in a matter of weeks.

With her hit HBO series Girls, Dunham mastered the basic art of setting and turned it into something uncomfortable and surprising. A warehouse party leads to Shoshana accidentally smoking crack. An argument over trash cans prompts Hannah to consider settling down with her attractive doctor neighbour. Many episodes have the structure of a short story, using small, quirky episodes to facilitate growth and change in her characters.

In Timbre, every little moment is integral to Sarah Jo’s evolution from an innocent virgin to a more secular, modern woman. Dunham’s camera looks at her with patience and understanding, balancing broader moments with a tender heart and a story that acknowledges her pain and sexual confusion as worth watching. seriously considered. Like in Girls, Tiny furniture and even the ill-fated series Camp, Dunham’s greatest strength as a filmmaker lies in his ability to create real, pain-related characters within an enhanced comedy framework.

However, despite the sympathy for Dunham’s narrative intentions, the portrayal of Sarah Jo’s personality is still troubling. In addition to the basic innocence of a virgin, her behavior is that of an alarming child. As her mother and sister passed by, Sarah Jo ate ice cream. In one scene, she arrives at a bar dressed as a girl on her way to Sunday school, with a big bow on her head. In her room, she has a list of sexual acts displayed like something out of a kindergarten classroom. These elements are so obvious that it’s impossible to separate them from her sex scenes, making them really jarring to watch.

What is the point of Sarah Jo being this way? Yes, she is sexually repressed, but how could she be this naive considering her mother and sister’s sexual openness? How did she manage to gather nothing during her 26 years on Earth? It doesn’t matter that Froseth – who is roughly her character’s age at the time of filming – looks much younger than she is, and the costume choices push her uncomfortably into subject territory. worship. Like Julia Garner in the teenage gem Electrick Children or Jennifer Hough in Diablo Cody’s not-so-bright directorial debut heaven, Sarah Jo is extremely sheltered, but there is no context of religion-based oppression and isolation to explain it.

Beneath its provocative shell, Timbre It felt jumbled and peculiar, as if it had erupted entirely from Dunham’s mind. In 2018, the director performed a hysterectomy after years of battling endometriosis. Knowing this, her performance as a sickly pregnant woman in the film is particularly bittersweet. Sarah Jo’s sexual awakening while grappling with her own infertility makes for an intriguing combination with Heather’s pregnancy and sexual isolation from her husband.

None of it adds to a coherent argument about love or sex, but it really isn’t necessary. And there’s something thrilling about Dunham’s refusal to act for her with obvious social purposes. Like Sarah Jo’s sexual imbalance, Timbre Finally, it’s about the excitement of discovery.

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