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Tiny Furniture

Tiny Furniture

Released 30 March 2012
Director Lena Dunham
Starring Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham, Jemima Kirke, Alex Karpovsky, David Call, Merritt Wever, Amy Seimetz
Writer(s) Lena Dunham
Producer(s) Kyle Martin, Alicia Van Couvering
Origin United States
Running Time 98 minutes
Genre Comedy
Rating 16

Hipster headache.

New York based indie filmmaker Lena Dunham makes her feature debut with Tiny Furniture, which tells the story of aimless twenty-three year-old Aura’s (Dunham) downbeat return from college to her mother’s Midtown apartment. The neurotic and dark humour (not to mention the setting) immediately recalls Woody Allen, and the tone isn’t all that far removed from such classics as Annie Hall, with Dunham taking the self-deprecating suffering genius to a whole new level of awkward. Tiny Furniture has its moments of brilliance, but these shine through only occasionally in a film that is lumbering in pace, frequently boring, and at times totally unwatchable.

The film is clearly a personal one, with Dunham on writing and directing duties as well as acting in the lead role. This brings the autobiographical status of this film into question. While it is presented as a work of fiction, there are clearly huge similarities with Dunham’s real life, and the fact that Dunham’s real mother and sister play the characters of Aura’s mother and sister complicates the barrier between fiction and reality. Aura is shown warts and all, and the fact that the film can’t be far removed from life makes it an uncomfortable watch.

This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if there was more of a story to tell, but for most of the duration of Tiny Furniture this doesn’t seem to be the case. The ideas of detachment with reality and near depression at lack of success are well developed, but the sense of journey or coherent plot are absent. Aura stumbles from parties to awkward romantic encounters, from a depressing part time job in a restaurant to frequent shots of her lazing in bed while her mother pesters her into activity. The supporting cast she encounters consists mostly of hipsters and wannabe artists, who spend their time making overly sarcastic remarks and using a lot of Apple products. The result is far from engaging.

Cleverly written scenes do shine out occasionally, and while not a lot actually happens, Tiny Furniture introduces plenty of layers which could be unravelled and characters that could be more fully explored. However the time we spend with them seems hollow, and it drags out far too long. The fact that the film fails suggests a work in progress rather than a finished piece. Perhaps it would have been better as a short, with tight editing and a faster pace, cutting the many scenes that don’t add to the story. There is plenty here to recommend Lena Dunham as a talent to watch out for, but not a lot to recommend Tiny Furniture as a must see.

- Bernard O’Rourke