Tiny Furniture

22 Jul

Director: Lena Dunham (2010)

“Aura would like you to know that she is having a very hard time”.

The tagline for Lena Dunham’s debut feature film says it all – about the film and about the lives of countless twenty something graduates emerging from college/university with an arts degree and no fucking idea what to do with it.

My Lena Dunham obsession is a recent realisation, which has reached new heights after becoming somewhat infatuated with Dunham’s HBO series Girls, directing me neatly towards Tiny Furniture, a film which is essentially a feature length prequel to the series.

Aura returns home to New York, staying in her mother’s swish TriBeCa studio apartment, fresh from a break up with her two-year boyfriend, no job, crash landing into the life she left before college that is now unrecognisable. Simple, indie and beautifully lo-fi, Tiny Furniture is written, directed and stars Lena Dunham presenting herself as a modern renaissance woman not too dissimilar to Miranda July. Only less kook, more cock. One of the things I love about Dunham’s work is her full frontal assault and understanding of young struggling women. Not just because I most certainly fall into this category, from the arts degree to the writerly aspirations, useless boyfriends and extra pounds, but because it is so refreshing to see this kind of honest representations on the screen, instead of this ‘manic pixie dream girl’ model that seems to be being offered by the film industry as the only alternative to the beautiful unattainable bombshell.

Living with her mother and prodigal sister, Nadine – played by real life sister Grace Dunham – Aura finds herself in limbo, pining for the freedoms of college but a vain hopefulness for (paid) work and more fruitful loves than those you enjoy at college. The sadness comes when you realise it’s just not that easy, something Aura finds out very quickly. With the help of her bohemian friend, Charlotte (Jemima Kirke) Aura is reintroduced to New York life, getting a job as a day hostess at an empty cafe, where she meets Kevin (David Call) whose ironic facial hair and piercing blue eyes play havoc with Aura’s vulnerability. Her choice in men, including the frustratingly plutonic relationship that develops with YouTube comedy sensation Jed (Alex Kaprovsky), serve as a further reminder that ‘real’ life just isn’t as fun. You sympathise with Aura in almost every frame but never pity, as if we learn our life lessons as she does.

Without the comedy we see in Girls, Tiny Furniture could be accused of narcissism and self indulgence. But why should this be a bad thing? Tiny Furniture is an honest ode to that compulsory search for the self, told through the eyes, mind and body of a woman who has been there and come out the other side a success, but still bearing the scars. Scooping Best Narrative Feature at South by Southwest in 2010, it’s clear that I wasn’t the only one who is excited to have such a fresh, raw and unabashed female voice in independent cinema.

Just like Aura’s YouTube video projects, Tiny Furniture is confessional cinema at its finest, an on screen journal almost of thought processes and the grit of life that leads to the kind of ill advised encounters and decisions that shape us and our art. And that’s something that college can’t teach you, no matter how good your degree.


One Response to “Tiny Furniture”

  1. amandalovesmovies July 23, 2012 at 3:51 am #

    i keep debating whether I should check out this flick. I too have a few things in common with the protagonist but I know so many people who are Girls haters. But your review is making me lean towards “give it a chance”.

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