Thursday, February 10, 2011
Made for an estimated $45,000 and shot mostly at her family’s Tribeca loft, Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture is a small film making big waves in the entertainment industry. Will Ferrell has praised the movie as being “subtle and brilliant” and one of the top 10 things that made him laugh in 2010. Tiny Furniture has even lured Judd Apatow, who developed the great late-’90s TV series, Freaks and Geeks, back to the small screen after making it big as the director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Apatow will be executive producing Dunham’s new HBO comedy series Girls, which came about after the success of Tiny Furniture.
Winner of the best narrative feature at the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival, Tiny Furniture follows the 22-year-old Aura (Dunham) as she returns home to New York City following her graduation from an Ohio-based college and the dissolution of a relationship. Adrift and with no employment prospects, Aura moves in with her artist mother Siri, who is played by Dunham’s real mother-artist Laurie Simmons, and her precocious sister Nadine, portrayed by Dunham’s own sister Grace Dunham.
While there’s not much of a plot, there are two romantic interests for Aura that cause some tension. One is Keith (David Call), a chef who looks a bit like Luke Perry and has a mustache and, unfortunately for Aura, a girlfriend. Another is Jed (Alex Karpovsky), who is a minor sensation on YouTube for clips where he sits on a rocking horse and insults imaginary enemies. He is just one of a few vehicles that Dunham utilizes to capture the ridiculousness of fleeting Internet fame.
As Aura tries to find out what to do with her post-collegiate life, she reconnects with Charlotte (a scene-stealing Jemima Kirke), who is one of Dunham’s best comic inventions. Spaced-out and speaking in a British accent even though she grew up in New York, Charlotte announces she just got out of rehab to Aura after the two run into one other at a loft party.
“Do you still drink?” Aura asks.
“Yeah,” Charlotte answers. “No. No. Only Kombucha, you know. And some red wine, but that’s good for you.”
A few seconds later, Charlotte praises a YouTube video that Aura created where she bathes in a college fountain with her swimsuit on.
“I think you are a genius,” Charlotte says to her insecure friend. “You should be on Saturday Night Live. Or maybe something more like early Yoko Ono where you just move through a gallery and everyone’s watching you.”
There is a found diary, some floundering romance and a teen party, but in the end, Tiny Furniture circles back to a subject often taken up in the films of Wes Anderson: the influence of kin on an individual. And like Anderson’s best movie, 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums, Tiny Furniture is a comedy that exists within its own distinct universe as it orbits around a quirky family.
TINY FURNITURE (3½) Directed by Lena Dunham. • Starring Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham and Jemima Kirke. • Rated R. 98 min. • At Osio Cinemas.