Tiny Furniture Reviews
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
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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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