Another romantic evening… in a metal pipe on the street in Tiny Furniture
I finally caught up with Lena Dunham’s buzzed about indie debut feature Tiny Furniture and I was pleasantly surprised. It looks like just another talky, navel-gazing ode to 20-something post-collegiate ennui – and it is – but it’s more than that too. For one thing, it’s funny. Dunham, who also stars as Aura, has a terrific, low-key comic sensibility that inspires a number of genuine laughs. Also, it’s a refreshingly feminine take on the “not quite ready to grow up” subgenre of films that has mostly been dominated by lay about males. Finally, it wonderfully captures that fuzzy awkward time many experience where you can no longer rely on college as a crutch, but you still haven’t quite figured out what it is you want to spend the rest of your life doing. You motivated and focused assholes out there who knew exactly what you wanted to do the minute the diapers came off might not be able to identify with Tiny Furniture, but those of us who weren’t (or aren’t) so certain will be able to identify.
For Aura, that means moving back home with her mother and little sister (played by Dunham’s own real life family), taking a menial low-paying job, attempting to reconnect with old friends and testing the romantic waters with a series of unappealing men. It’s as though she wants things to be the way they were before she left, but everything has changed. Mom is busy with her art career and little sister has been spoiled having the run of the place. Aura finds she no longer really belongs. At the same time, she finds an old diary of her mother’s written when she was Aura’s age and Aura sort of bonds with this 20-something version of her mother who no longer really exists.
Besides the abundant humor, what really makes Tiny Furniture work is its honesty and lack of self-regard. Though Aura is kind of a narcissist, Dunham the filmmaker is acutely aware of this. As in the similarly themed Momma’s Man, the potentially noxious set up involving deeply flawed characters is ultimately mined for a real moving sweetness. We spend so much of our youth wishing we were older and the rest of our lives wishing we could get that innocence back and Dunham understands this.