Screened Saturday 24 April
Lena Dunham’s hyphenate debut Tiny Furniture is somewhat of a tiny miracle, a film that should in no way succeed at all, but does so, with so much intelligence, humor and charm, that it made me wonder if Dunham had somehow tricked us into thinking this was her first full feature, and that we were watching the work of a seasoned pro. It’s the raw diamond in the rough that comes along every so often and rekindles my hope for the future of young independent film in America.
Dunham directs herself from a mostly autobiographical script about a young college grad, Aura, who moves back home with her artist mother and precocious younger sister after being dumped by her boyfriend. Envisioning grand plans of getting her own apartment with a friend and making it big in New York City, she quickly regresses and retreats to a lazy life of dead-end restaurant work and poor choice in men. She lolls about in a ratty t-shirt and her underwear most of the day, oversleeping and whining relentlessly about her horrible lot in life. She is going nowhere fast and shows no real sign of caring.
If this sounds insufferable, like the template of so many navel gazing indies made by the same cohort of overeducated 20-something, well… yes and no. Superficially, Tiny Furniture plays out like a distaff version of the loosely grouped “mumblecore” (sorry, I hate it too, but no other term work) spearhead by Andrew Bujalski and mostly made up of male directors and male protagonists. But the gender switch isn’t what (or just) sets Dunham’s film apart.