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Lena Dunham could just as easily have been an author. At least that’s how it feels in her quietly funny and thoughtful festival circuit favorite, Tiny Furniture. Instead, she’s decided to not only take on the role of writer but director and actor as well in this, her second feature, which won both the Best Narrative Feature and Chicken and Egg Emergent Narrative Women Director awards at this year’s SXSW.
It’s a simple enough flick about a girl, Aura, returning after college to her comfortable New York life with her teenage, overachieving sister and successful artist mother. With no job prospects lined up and a former boyfriend who “needed to move back to the farm,” feelings of inadequacy begin to rise. She finds solace in her manic childhood friend Charlotte and her awkward relationships with two new guys, one a YouTube star, the other her new coworker at a restaurant where she day-hosts.
Tiny Furniture is a story about routine and what it means to enter a new world with nothing to hold onto. No more classes. No more boyfriend. No career. Without these things, Aura desperately grabs hold of anything that will have her, anything she feels can help define this new stage of her life, falling helplessly into what one can assume are old habits.
Dunham paints an honest and sometimes unflattering portrait of her main character, who shares with her an aspiration to make films. Additionally, Dunham casts her sister and mother in the roles of Aura’s sister and mother, and the film was shot in the house she still lives in today. And even though she is currently garnering attention that her character can only dream of, it’s impossible to ignore the autobiographical nature of the film.
Tiny Furniture shares more in common with the short stories of contemporary authors like Miranda July and Lorrie Moore than any recent films, with their witty, sometimes bleek and altogether corky outlook on relationships and character. That style doesn’t always translate well to the screen, and it shows at times here, but for the most part, Dunham has offered up a unique and truth-to-life portrait of post-graduate life in world where a college degree is no longer a free pass and where it’s easier to fall into routine than carve out a new life.
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