by M. Faust
It would give you the wrong impression of Tiny Furniture to tell you that its writer/director/star Lena Dunham is on the verge of becoming a Next Big Thing: On the virtue of this, her first feature film (not counting a student effort), Dunham has been hired by Judd Apatow to develop a new series for HBO. So pretend I didn’t say that.
Produced on a small budget using her own family as actors and her mother’s apartment for its main set, Tiny Furniture follows the first month after Aura (Dunham) moves back home, having graduated from college in Ohio but lacking any idea of what to do next. Her mother, a successful photographer-artist (Laurie Simmons), doesn’t make a big deal out of it. She’s more concerned at the moment with younger sister Nadine (Grace Dunham), a high school senior with a bright future. (A father is presumed but never mentioned.)
It’s not an unfamiliar story, but Dunham doesn’t press it hard. It’s a comedy of small observations rather than belly laughs as Aura wanders between new friends and old, eligible but inappropriate men, a pointless job and an uncomfortable home. She’s not inherently likeable—she’s often as sullen and petulant as a 16-year-old, and Dunham goes out of her way to make herself look like a schlump. But as both writer and director she’s much more savvy: The dialogue is peppered with little zingers and the scenes are economical, getting what she needs from them and then moving on rather than lingering on characters that other filmmakers might be tempted to squeeze more out of. “Always leave them wanting more,” runs the old show business adage, and with this slight but pleasing comedy Dunham has done just that.
Watch the trailer for Tiny Furniture
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