Tiny Furniture Reviews
It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to realize that Dunham came to make "Tiny Furniture" because her mother's artistic success has given her a very privileged and monied existence. But when it comes to "Tiny Furniture" the advantage of opportunity is actually what fuels this surprisingly refreshingly self-aware film.
Essentially, if for some reason you've never seen it, this is Lena Dunham playing an almost cringe-worthy version of herself. Her highly respected artist mother plays the mother and Dunham's real-life sister plays her sister. And much of the film itself it filmed in her mother's NYC expansive condo. Dunham had just graduated from college when she made this film about a wanna-be artist who returns "home" after completing her education. "Aura" is trying to figure it all out.
Her mother and her sister would just be happy if she would find a job and get her own place, but "Aura" feels she has "earned" the right to take a bit of time off to figure things out regarding her future and what she wants out of life. Upon her arrival home she encounters an old pal who is as "damaged" as she is a bad influence on Aura. Aura gets into arguments with her mother and sister. She lets her only "real" friend down in favor of just hanging out at home complaining or hanging with her old pal. She secures a job in which she is most certainly a sort of set up for failure and a way too low paycheck. She sets out on a lame attempt at two "relationships" which are really more about sexual experimentation than seeking "love" -- one of these two "men" seems a to be too realistic and logical for Aura. She seems more interested in a fellow lost hipster. When she is finally able to secure his seduction it leads to an uncomfortable sort of variation toward sexual abuse than "encounter." All the while, Aura is really more interested in testing the limits with her mother, figuring out her mother's admittedly odd approach to home organization and her mother's obsessions with tiny objects for an upcoming art project.
What makes this low-fi movie so very important is that Dunham is truly fearless in her ability to use her all too self-aware sense of false entitlement, spoiled adult-woman-child, self-centered obsessions and her casual disregard for others.
No matter how one looks at it, "Tiny Furniture" is an often funny and painfully insightful examination of a spoiled rich kid "buying time" until the sprit moves her to do something. Anything. And it's razor sharp observations are all the more potent and "real" because they are being made by the young woman who has written, directed and staring as a not-so-fictional version of herself.
This is cinematically ballsy film in which the artist is so clearly aware of her character and herself that the film actually goes to great lengths to remind us that Aura is spoiled rotten adult for whom everything is given too easily. And none of this is played for cheap laughs. In fact, much of this film takes us to some very dark and sad realizations.
For all of her bravado and tenacity, Aura is riddled with self-doubt and self-loathing. She is desperate for acceptance, love and forgiveness. The problem is her desperation is not as strong as her laziness.
This is a time capsule moment of a film even if Lena Dunham has not achieved such huge success after "Tiny Furniture" came out. It is worth noting that this film is so very good that Criterion fought to release it for DVD/Blu-Ray and VOD distribution. And it says a great deal that Paul Schrader was eager to offer an interview about the film and its maker's importance. As the great Schrader praise Dunham's achievement, he also offers a great deal of pause regarding whether or not Dunham has the sort of talent or personality who will be able to navigate the current and ever-changing rules of the Entertainment Industry. He basically shrugs his shoulders: Paul Schrader has no idea it "Tiny Furniture" will be a one hit wonder or if there is a future for Dunham.
I think we all know the answer.
The bummer is that I doubt we will ever see Lena Dunham manage to do what she does here. Her hit HBO TV Show was initially an interesting take on wealthy self-entitled "Girls" has de-evolved into a sort of provocative celebration of this entitlement. It may not be the intention, but that is how "Girls" and nearly everything she has written, said or done since this amazing film was released.
What price fame. But no matter what she does or doesn't do -- Lena Dunham made an amazing film. "Tiny Furniture" is a very important film. It should not be missed.
I enjoyed Tiny Furniture for the most part, and in the first half-hour or so I'd accepted that it was going to have that loose style. I'd pretty much accepted how I was going to feel about the movie: it wasn't going to make me feel a lot of emotions, but I'd enjoy watching it. I was always a big fan of Girls, so it was funny seeing Alex Karpovsky and Jemima Kirke popping up. Jed had some similarities to Ray from Girls but was ultimately different, less funny and more of a manipulative dick. Charlotte, though, was pretty much exactly like Jessa. And though the film is less outwardly wacky than Girls, there's a lot of similarities in tone. It has a lot of quirky characters that reminded me of Girls characters (Jed seemed like a character who'd be in Girls, but not like Ray), and there's a lot of witty lines that reminded me of the show, too. So overall I was content to just sit back and enjoy the loose hanging out vibe and occasional funny joke without needing a big emotional base.
Around half an hour through the movie, I realized I still had a whole hour left, and I became a little bored throughout the middle section. The loose vibe can work well for a movie that moves a lot like Frances Ha, but this movie occasionally felt lethargic and unfocused, with a lot of subplots that didn't really go anywhere, like with Frankie. I realized that simply delivering a funny line once every few minutes wasn't enough to make me sufficiently enjoy the film when I wasn't really feeling any feelings or getting much thematic depth or character development out of it.
That persisted almost until the end, but I was surprised several times during the movie by some scenes of real poignancy. Pretty much anything that involved Aura, Siri, or Nadine in the movie was a lot more interesting than anything involving tertiary characters like Jed and Keith. There's a real sense of family between these three actresses, which is obviously at least partly because they're family in real life. When Aura blows up at her mom, it shouldn't work very well because it hasn't been telegraphed well enough, but the feeling of realness between them makes it a little more emotional. And all of the emotional scenes work not because they have a strong emotional backing from what have come before them, but because Dunham (as both an actor and a writer) is smart enough to pick up on the smaller details that make them poignant. I really liked, for example, Nadine's reactions upon walking in on Aura's outburst. She sort of just stands and observes, then she giggles a little. It's partly Grace Dunham's performance, but that whole series of reactions just felt really real to me.
So though I grew tired of the romantic subplots and general aimlessness, all the family scenes made up for it. I liked Nadine blowing up at Aura during her party, which similarly kind of came out of nowhere but still hurt to watch because the actors sold the hell out of it. I loved Aura coming into Siri's room, apologizing to her sister, then trying to cuddle with her before being shoved away in a very sisterly fashion. I loved Aura's fascination with her mom's old journals, because I've had that same curiosity about my parents' and grandparents' lives before. And I love the last scene (though the last line seemed kind of abrupt and random to me), which, for some reason, really touched me. A huge part of it is the actors, with Laurie Simmons calmly telling Aura about her younger years and Lena Dunham curiously listening. But it's also the direction, staying tight on Siri's face while allowing us to see Aura leaning over her in anticipation like a little kid. Maybe it's not just those, though. There was just this feeling I got that's hard to explain. It was just...peaceful. Most of the movie wasn't focused or fun enough for me, but in that scene, I cared more about the characters and their relationships than I would've expected from the first half-hour.
I'm increasingly starting to hate grading things because I never know how generous or strict to be. For me, three stars means I thought the movie was 'okay,' not really considering it good enough to say I solidly enjoyed it. Most 'okay' movies I label that way because they're kind of good but just fail to make an impression on me. But Tiny Furniture is kind of different, because while a good portion of it feels longer than necessary and dull, there are certain scenes that DID make an impression on me. That last scene, like I said, was just a scene that clicked with me for whatever reason. Most of the familial scenes were. At this point Lena Dunham's writing and directing chops hadn't been honed into a cohesive form yet, but there's something comforting and nice about looking back at her earliest work and knowing that even there, in her sloppy beginnings, there's something real and powerful there. I'm going to go ahead and say that I really did like this movie, just because that final scene put it over the three-star mark. It left me with a sense of peace, and not every movie can make me feel like that.
Certain moments of this film really spoke to me. But as the film progressed, I hated Aura more and more. Maybe Dunham wants everyone to hate her (like she does in Girls), but I'm not interested in hating someone for the sake of hating them? Towards the end it just got more and more painful to watch (I was holding my hair, begging for it to end).
There is no way I would ever recommend this to anyone... in fact, I'm a little embarrassed I sat through it...
ON THE OTHER HAND, it showed an honesty exposing the faults some of us have in a way I could probably never capture in my own work. For being able to recognize and understand your self-hating characteristics, I say Bravo.
The film was shot on the Canon EOS 7D. Filming took place in TriBeCa and Lower Manhattan. The film was shot in November 2009. Dunham says she wrote a "tight script" to which the actors were faithful.
The soundtrack included music by Teddy Blanks of The Gaskets, Domino (Domino Kirke, and Jordan Galland), Rebecca Schiffman and Sonia's Party! & The Everyone's Invited Band. The soundtrack is downloadable for free on the movie website.
Tiny Furniture was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in 2012 as part of the Criterion Collection
Lena Dunham won for Best First Screenplay at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards
I think that this is such a really well written/acted/directed movie 2 watch.....
It premiered at South by Southwest, where it won Best Narrative Feature, screened at such festivals as Maryland Film Festival, and was released theatrically in the United States on November 12, 2010. Dunham's own mother, the artist Laurie Simmons, plays Aura's mother, while her real sister, Grace, plays Aura's on-screen sibling. The actors Jemima Kirke and Alex Karpovsky would also appear in Dunham's television series Girls.
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