Lena Dunham writes, directs and stars in this astute indie comedy drama. Aura (Dunham) is a 22 year old Film graduate who returns home from University after a break up with her boyfriend and no idea what she wants to do with her life. Aura quickly falls back into old habits and reacquaints herself with old friends as well as making new ones. Her mother, a successful photographic artist, and her younger sister, an overachiever, seem to be on a different wave length to Aura and we see as she struggles to decide what path to go down in life.
For all its existentialism Tiny Furniture is filled with plenty of deadpan humour, with a similar tone and aesthetic to a Miranda July film. The film was shot in Dunham’s real life extremely white family home and both Aura’s mother and sister are played by Dunham’s real life parent and sibling. These elements alone have led many to state autobiographical aspects to the film which may or may not be true. Either way the level of realism within the film is high, from the naturalistic lighting to the plump body of our main protagonist; this is certainly not a glossy affair. With a multitude of pop culture references, Aura has a performance film on YouTube and her new strange friend Jed (Alex Karpovsky) reads a book about Woody Allen, you would be forgiven for thinking this film is dangerously ‘cool’. Yes, in parts it does seem to try hard to be trendy but at the same time it is so observationally accurate that it manages to get away with it.
Tiny Furniture is artistically shot but never enough so that it detracts from the narrative and the characters. There are plenty of static shots which do result in the film feeling rather slow paced but this juxtaposes nicely with the awkwardness of the characters. For a comedy film it is not explicitly funny but there are plenty of subtle nuances of humour. One particular character that stands out is Aura’s childhood friend Charlotte (brilliantly played by Jemima Kirke), a rehab rich kid who epitomises the New York scene. Dunham herself does an excellent job of portraying a young woman in the midst of confusion and feeling quite alone in the world. It is rather difficult to sympathise with the character of Aura though, as we see her abandon a University friend and not move in with her at the last minute and she is from a very privileged family, enabling her to quit a mundane job without any consequences. This is probably the most problematic element of the film.
Perhaps not easily accessible for some as the film is filled with vile characters, Aura even becoming annoying in parts, and there is an extremely meandering pace to it. But if you are patient Tiny Furniture is rewarding to an extent. For anybody that has struggled to decide what to do in life you will identify with these characters and situations and for anybody who has a penchant for awkward deadpan humour there is plenty to enjoy.
Dunham has been hailed as “the Woody Allen of Generation Y” which is a rather overly generous statement but there is certainly something about her and this film. It is not the most memorable or exciting film but is an honest portrayal of a young, albeit rich, person today.
The extras on the disc are reasonable with an interview with Lena Dunham, four short films by Dunham and the theatrical trailer.
Tiny Furniture is yours to own on DVD from 28th May 2012.
Director: Lena Dunham
Writers: Lena Dunham
Stars: Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons and Grace Dunham
Runtime: 98 mins