Lena Dunham's recent HBO series 'Girls' has taken off in a big way, and is scheduled to arrive on UK television this September. Similarly, her 2010 feature 'Tiny Furniture' took its time to make it over to our fair island, with a limited release in March. Now, it comes out on DVD, backed by a host of positive reviews and favourable comparisons to Woody Allen and Tina Fey - a reaction that I feel is overly generous.
'Tiny Furniture' begins with 22 year old Aura (played by Dunham, who also wrote and directed the film) returning to her New York family apartment in a "post-graduate delirium". Her film theory degree not providing much of an avenue for employment in hard-hitting times, she nabs an opportunity to work at a local restaurant. Despite the relative stability of a job and a rent-free home, Aura finds her life situation unravelling by the minute.
Aura struggles in a dysfunctional family, battling her mother (Laurie Simmons, Dunham's real-life mother) and sister (Grace Dunham, her real-life sister) but her own internal battles are just as great. Aura's motives for the future remain unclear while her romantic aspirations are fraught with insecurity and poor decision making. A place in our lives which we've all undoubtedly found ourselves in.
The film won Best Narrative Feature at SXSW 2010, an impressive feat, all the more so as its narrative is somewhat jumbled. Its central theme seems to reflect the idea of self-respect, Aura's willingness to expose herself in substandard YouTube videos and allowing men to use her yet her aim for more ambitious employment - something of an infuriating contradiction.
Indeed, 'Tiny Furniture' makes you regularly despair for humanity - hopefully this isn't an accurate microcosm of New York life. Otherwise, it truly is inhabited by massive wankers. However, a few bright moments do permeate through the film, typically in an awkwardly dry, neurotic comedic manner - evocative of Woody Allen but without his charm.
While 'Tiny Furniture' does successfully capture some of the confusion that comes out of growing into your mid-twenties, it does so in a manner that makes literally every main character almost entirely unsympathetic. Nonetheless, Dunham's film feels absolutely naturalistic and her brave self-analysis encourages our own reflection and comparison although the viewer pines for a deeper, more satisfying examination of the flaws offered.
- Interview with Lena Dunham
- Five short films ('Dealing', 'The Fountain', 'Hooker On Campus', 'The Hostess With The Leastest', 'Open The Door')
- Theatrical trailer
Dunham showcases her quirk via a selection of short films but the most interesting feature here is a meaty interview covering Dunham's influences (Woody Allen, Noah Baumbach etc) and her thoughts on the industry and making 'Tiny Furniture'.
'Tiny Furniture' is out in the UK on DVD through Independent Distribution. Purchase at amazon.co.uk.