Review: Why has 'Tiny Furniture' turned Lena Dunham into a comedy sensation?
The much-hyped indie comedy finally hits theaters today
It has become almost impossible to avoid Lena Dunham at this point, and her first film "Tiny Furniture" is only hitting theaters today. How does an independent filmmaker in her mid-20s go from a micro-budget comedy that seems, on the surface, like a hundred other mumblecore movies from the last half-dozen years and end up making an HBO series produced by Judd Apatow before it's even been released?
That's not all she's done, of course. Scott Rudin also hired her to adapt Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. So that's Rudin and Apatow both obviously impressed by "Tiny Furniture." That seems like pretty strong endorsement. And when you're talking about a very tiny film, sometimes that sort of endorsement can work against the movie by the time you see it. I missed it at this year's SXSW, but the buzz has really only kicked in over the last few months. At this point, Dunham's everywhere, and now people have a chance to see her film and get their introduction to her.
And, yes, I apologize for using that dreaded "m" word in the opening paragraph, but that's certainly the label that is easiest to apply to the general school of filmmaking that Dunham belongs to. All that really means when most people use it is a certain sort of low-fi aesthetic and the basic subject matter of young people struggling to figure out their place in things. Dunham stars in her film as Aura, a girl who has just graduated and who returns home so she can figure out her next step in life.
She wants to get an apartment in New York with her friend Frankie (Merritt Wever), but first she wants to coast a little and live with her mother Siri (Laurie Simmons) and her sister Nadine (Grace Dunham). Dunham cast her own mother and sister in the parts, and the dynamic that they play in the film is almost distressingly real. Aura spends much of her time hanging out with her friend Charlotte (Jemima Kirke) and getting entangled with two complicated and irritating guys, the homeless Internet artist Jed (Alex Karpovsky) and the short-order chef Keith (David Call) who plays the whole "my girlfriend doesn't get me" game. There's not much more to the film than that, but what Dunham does exceptionally well is capture that feeling when you've just finished with something, some major life event, and you want affirmation and acknowledgement and you want a free ride for a while and you realize that the world really doesn't give a shit about your amazing accomplishment and what the heck did you even do it for in the first place? It's a period that many graduates go through, and Dunham finds a lot of very honest uncomfortable humor in Aura's situation. She manages to make it all feel authentic, but she also has a finely tuned sense of absurdity that cuts anything that might feel melodramatic, always grounding it in a wry understanding that what Aura's really doing is avoiding the beginning of "real life." She's an annoying character, but intentionally so. Dunham doesn't let Aura off the hook. She's willing to make herself the butt of the joke as long as it's honest. There's no ego to her work as an actor or as a director, and that is one of the things that is most endearing about "Tiny Furniture." It doesn't feel calculated. It just feels like the film she had to make to take her own first step into the world.
Visually, Dunham's got a sharper visual sense than many of her peers. It's subtle, but she has a real handle on how to sell a joke visually, and she also has a real knack for revealing character with the way she shoots a scene. Her cast is strong, and the film never meanders. So much of the criticism about these types of films is that sort of aimless, introspective inertia, and there's only so much of that I can take. It may not sound like a compliment, but Dunham has an innate sense of the the big broad mainstream in what she does, and if she makes the jump to HBO or to big-budget movies, that's not going to be difficult. "Tiny Furniture" is a small film, but it's a major announcement, and it's little wonder with a voice this strongly defined that Dunham has already found her place in the industry. We'll be hearing much more from her, I'm sure.
"Tiny Furniture" opens in limited release today.
News From Our Partners
- Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Call Me Maybe' Captures Top Digital Song Honor at 2013 Billboard Music Awards Macklemore + Ryan Lewis Win Best Rap Song for 'Thrift Shop' at 2013 Billboard Music Awards 2013 Billboard Music Awards Gets a Tour From Taylor Swift's '22′ Performance [Video]
- 'Anchorman 2' Trailer Had Us At 'Hello': Watch Now! Fiery 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Scene Hurt The Most: Ouch! How Far Will 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Boldly Go At Box Office?
- Box Office: 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Misses $100M Domestic Mark on Opening Weekend Beyonce Pregnant Again? Sources Confirm 'Epic' Star Is Carrying Baby No. 2 'Hangover 3' Red Band Trailer: Take a Walk Down a NSFW Memory Lane (VIDEO)
- 'Doctor Who' Season 8 Confirmed, Steven Moffat to Return The Wrap Up: Behind-the-Scenes Image from 'Godzilla' Shows a Train in Peril Batman: Arkham Origins Will See the Return of Kevin Conroy
- FTW vs. WTF: The TV Week in Review (May 19) Doctor Who "The Name of the Doctor" Review: The Impossible Girl Made Possible What to Watch This Weekend: The Season Finales of Nikita, Doctor Who, The Simpsons, and Family Guy
- A Final 'Office' Farewell Stefon Marries Anderson Cooper In Final Show Creed Bratton: Closing Creed Thoughts
- Cannes Film Festival: Cannes 2013, Day Four: The Coen brothers return to the festival with a folk-rock flashback Cannes Film Festival: Cannes 2013, Day Three: Cheers for the young stars of The Selfish Giant, jeers for the new films by Hirokazu Kore-eda and Arnaud Desplechin Watch This: With Beavis And Butt-head Do America, Mike Judge skewered the idiocy of cinematic adventures
- The Telefile - The Most Heinous Person on Reality TV This Week The Telefile - Modern Family: The Best Lines of the Night The Telefile - Fall TV 2013: What's On When
The director's next film promises to be packed with talentSunday, May 19, 2013
This is one you'll want to watch as soon as you've seen the movieFriday, May 17, 2013
Plus we look back at a more spirited encounter with the comic actorThursday, May 16, 2013
The Channing Tatum/Mila Kunis science-fiction action movie is shooting nowThursday, May 16, 2013