Brief: Tiny Furniture
Tiny Furniture
Its hard to get a bead on what, exactly, this film thinks its doing. Its obviously about post-graduation malaise and aimlessness, but the film seems to be afflicted with the same problems as its characters--its clever enough, sure, but doesn't seem to know what its saying. There's a distinct lack of viewpoint here, which lends the film an observational bent, but its far too closely tied to its protagonist Aura (Lena Dunham) and her perspective to really pull that off. Characters enter and leave the story with little notice, subplots (in as much as anything in this movie can be called a "subplot") begin and are dropped. Mostly, things happen for 90 minutes, and Dunham is angsty about them.

Tiny Furniture is fascinating to watch in terms of Dunham's evolution, and it definitely adds to the ongoing cultural conversation that keeps cropping up over the line between the artist and her work. I'm a big fan of Girls, which has similar subject matter, characters, and even shares several actors with the film, but the show is much more assured, much more sophisticated and layered, and ultimately, has a viewpoint and a larger message. The line between Lena Dunham and Aura here feels thin indeed, to the point that it can be hard to sympathize with Aura during her outbursts, because while she seems completely petulant, the film rarely appears to be aware of her unlikable tendencies. Aura is entitled, selfish, and unthinking, but the film doesn't seem to have any problems with her behavior; if anything, it wants us on her side, but has trouble figuring out how to get us there. Similar scenes on Girls draw us into the characters head space, but also allow us a layer of self-awareness; they make us feel like the world is ending when the characters feel that way, but also allow us enough room to acknowledge that no, actually, it isn't and that everything will be ok.

Girls calls its characters out for their flaws, and that show seems much more self aware as a result, which makes its characters a lot easier to relate to--we've all known people like that and been people like that, so its easy to recognize and sympathize. Tiny Furniture is a much more internal film, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but is perhaps, in this context, slightly less interesting. Its actually a decent indie movie, though its incredibly aimless and the performances couldn't be more listless, but its most interesting as a point of comparison and a window into the ways Lena Dunham has evolved over her short career. Tiny Furniture has the early markings of what would become a style and a viewpoint, but Dunham has become much more adept at crafting stories, populating them with characters who feel real and relatable, and telling a story that, while tied closely to the perspective of her protagonist also gives the audience, and the show itself, some much needed critical distance.

Read more of Jordan's Film Criticism here
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