Aura (Lena Dunham) has just graduated from University with a degree in film theory and returns home to her artist mother’s trendy loft apartment in an upscale part of New York. She is aimless and – as also I discovered not too long ago – not qualified for anything in particular, so she spends her time getting a part-time job, arguing with her mother (Laurie Simmons) and younger sister (Grace Dunham), whilst also looking for love in the wake of a bad breakup. It’s a premise which will no doubt strike a depressingly familiar chord with those of us of a similar generation to the 25 year-old Dunham, who also wrote and directed Tiny Furniture. Her debut feature feels autobiographical – a suspicion reinforced by the fact that her mother and sister are played by their real-life analogues. In any case, it feels achingly authentic.
Dunham perfectly captures that sense of aimlessness that follows graduation for those of us not savvy enough to study something more obviously useful. Her return to the family home is also captured perfectly, with that feeling that Aura expects greater fanfare and attention than she is receiving: she expects to have been missed when, in reality, everybody else has moved on with their lives. Much like the Generation X protagonist of Kevin Smith’s seminal comedy Clerks, in who repeatedly sidestepped responsibility with the memorable refrain “I’m not even supposed to be here today”, Aura frequently bemoans how much of a “very hard time” she’s having.
This gives the film, open to accusations of “navel-gazing”, a nice element of self-awareness as Dunham both explores (and presumably empathizes with) that wallowing post-”college” self-pity whilst also making a joke of it. There is no doubt that Aura, with her refusal to deal with problems, half-hearted attempt at maintaining basic employment and penchant for delaying action, is a pathetic (if familiar) creation. She is also, happily, a very funny presence and Dunham displays a lack of vanity which only enhances her appeal (think Tina Fey or Kristen Wiig). Dunham’s dialogue is likewise witty and amusing, but best of all she seems a great observer of people. Each of the film’s characters is distinctive and nuanced, as are their relationships to Aura.
On a first glance the film’s lo-fi digital aesthetic, loose plot and relaxed structure are reminiscent of the mumblecore movement, though the use of a script (as opposed to improvisation) and Dunham’s highly composed, static camera placement see Tiny Furniture resist such easy classification. Whatever it isn’t, it is very much a film of the moment and, for a section of the population – young, unemployable and uncertain what the future might hold, it will most certainly strike a chord. On this evidence, and with a Judd Apatow produced HBO sitcom starting in the US next month (entitled Girls), Dunham could soon be very big news indeed.
Tiny Furniture is released in UK cinemas today.
- 8 Actresses Who Tricked You Into Thinking You Saw Them Nude
- 11 Irresistible Movie Moments That Wore Out Your Pause Button
- 100 Things Wrong With The Dark Knight Rises [Video]
- 10 Scenes You Won't Believe You Missed in 2012
- 10 Most Infuriating Movie Cliffhangers
- 10 Major Plot Holes You Probably Missed
- 10 Happy Movie Endings That Probably Had Horrific Consequences
- 12 Ruthless Movie Villains Who Were Defeated By Complete Fools