September 13, 2016
Tiny Furniture (2010) starts with Aura (Lena Dunham) who just came back home from college and is looking for some answers, tips to figure it out, you know the kind. She stays with her mom and sisters (who are actually Dunham’s real mom and sis). They fight, they argue, they lie around the loft. She reencounters an old friend, Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), a half-British-accented girl whom she’s been avoiding for years. When we first meet her in a brief party scene, she seems like a sole aberration but when they get to hang out we realize she is a better person than Aura thought she was. She is easygoing and doesn’t think too much about outcomes, just like the movie itself. Kind of like a Cosmo Kramer (and Aura says she sees re-runs of Seinfeld in a scene). At times you think she is someone who’d be interesting to spend time with. At others she’s just troublesome.
Her mom is an artist. She takes pictures of tiny things. She doesn’t bother Aura when she is being lazy. She probably was in the same situation at her age. But she does bother her for other personal little details: that she ate her frozen food, slept in her bed, or that there’s a frozen hamster in the fridge. And her sister doesn’t help, who is perfect in every aspect and, contrasted with Aura, good looking. Aura is also trying to be an artist; she makes YouTube videos in which she relishes semi-naked in public fountains. There are plenty of nods to DIY artistry. Which nowadays is a situation that sometimes looks like the best choice for our generation. One of the videos is actually shown in an art event later in the film, it wasn’t what Aura expected but it’s probably better than the job she had as a hostess in a small restaurant.
As the movie progresses, we get to meet a couple more characters. Two guys, Keith and Jed, one is an asshole who is cool and the other one a cool guy who is an asshole. Aura disappoints one of them, and the other one disappoints her. I’ll let you figure it out. She has somewhat interesting moments with them. For instance, she talks about porn, something called “tentacle rape” and fucks inside a pipe in a random street, but many bits feel lazy or nonsense. There’s another side-story about Aura and her college best friend that concludes ambiguously, or maybe just doesn’t conclude at all.
In addition to nonsense talk there are also nonsense moments. She reads her mom’s diary and later reads it out loud on YouTube, and you think that will be used later in terms of drama or something, but it doesn’t. There’s also a Chantal Ackerman-y scene when she takes care of a Spider-Man-dressed kid that only lasts a couple seconds. I couldn’t see the point; we never see anything related to it again. That’s the basis of the whole movie, I presume. To portray lack of importance in detail and “chill personalities” in the film, and she succeeds in that (if that was the purpose) but many of them feel like unnecessary points.
I hate and really feel bad when I attack an independent movie that feels like a sincere effort but the story didn’t work out for me. It feels like many parts could’ve been cut, or more drama (or comedy) added. Anyway, it is an interesting movie at times. You can feel Aura’s struggle in almost every scene; hopefully she made it as an artist like her mom said she would. The last conversation she has with her is the best part. Although in real life we know Dunham became very successful after Tiny Furniture, and that’s essentially what gives reciprocal importance to this movie that could age as a great portrayal of this generation. It does touches factually interesting conversations, makes references to a couple good things and has low budget paraphernalia that feels natural. You can’t really discard a movie made by someone in her twenties. That said, Lena Dunham’s who wrote it, directed it and starred in it, pulled off a solid product full of varied personalities, but she did not deliver a great movie. Who am I to say that? See you next time.