The one thing I cannot accuse Tiny Furniture (2010) of is a lack of sincerity. Although not stated explicitly, the film is most likely based off of writer, director, and lead Lena Dunham’s (Girls) life after graduating. I can’t say that I agree with everything the film presents, but I can say that the controversy portrayed in the film exists with purpose, and I can trust that Lena speaks with experience on the topic of young adult struggles.
Aura (Lena Dunham) is a recent college graduate and aspiring filmmaker who moves back home so that she may figure out a career plan. She is both supported and intimidated by her successful artist/photographer of a mother, Siri (Laurie Simmons, Lena’s actual mother) and her accomplished and ambitious high school sister Nadine (Grace Dunham, Lena’s actual sister). As Aura attempts to reconnect with old friends, she meets her old British friend Charlotte (Jemima Kirk, Girls), and a fellow filmmaker Jed (Alex Karpovsky, Girls) who she recognizes from his distinctive Youtube videos. At her job as a day hostess, she meets the sous chef Keith (David Call) who she connects with over drugs. Lena makes and breaks friendships through literature, art, drugs, and sex as she tries to sort what she wants to do with the rest of her life.
This film is a precursor to Lena’s Girls sensation; it hosts many of the amateur actors that will star in her show, but the film also covers a few of the same topics that Girls discusses. Although I have not witnessed the controversial content of Girls’ Holy Grail of Crazy Things Young People Do, I can imagine that this film and the television show have the same feel. What I’m talking about is the feeling that could only come from a creative director who was in the moment of the experiences she depicts; you can be sure that every choice, from the dialogue to the cinematography to the editing, was the choice that most purely highlighted the mindset of a confused and directionless 22-year-old.
I enjoyed the film more for the dialogue than for any other major aspect. Lena is a talented young screenwriter, in my opinion. Although the literary and cultural references peppered throughout the film were ham-handed (to put it modestly), and there was enough character pretention to indulge in seconds, I found the dialogue’s lack of closure to be completely refreshing. Oftentimes, my generation can be fooled into believing and expecting there to be a great sense of conclusion with almost anything, most specifically in films. Rarely does the twenty-something crowd gravitate towards ambiguity; we most appreciate resolution – a sense of clean finality that does not leave us craving.
Tiny Furniture serves a dual purpose: to show us that what we know is extremely influential and not always beneficial, and that what we don’t know is not to be discouragement. The greatest problem that Aura faces throughout the film is that she is trying to figure things out. Although sometimes she feels like a failure for this, it is not so. She will shape her own character through her experiences; the audience is allowed to share in Aura’s mistakes and accomplishments in the journey to finding herself.
Lena Dunham is not an amateur filmmaker, although she is still young. As an aspiring filmmaker myself, this is of great relief to me. This film, in my opinion, is a great resource for young people in that the character of a filmmaker is not masked by the final outcome of the film. Our adolescent experiences and sufferings are not blotches on our otherwise admirable track records; instead, they can be used as a most unadulterated form of artistic expression.