Lena Dunham is an unusual pop icon. Dunham’s work – including her television show “Girls” and her film “Tiny Furniture” – features young, predominantly white, upper-middle-class women.
And in both “Girls” and “Tiny Furniture,” her portrayals of this demographic seem genuine and interesting.
Dunham doesn’t caricaturize or trivialize her characters; each one, especially in “Tiny Furniture,” seems real.
I could easily see myself meeting the protagonist, Aura, (played by Dunham) in an aisle of the Food Co-op, or seeing her little sister at some random high-school event.
And since “Tiny Furniture” so realistic, nothing really happens.
There’s not an easily identifiable climax, and the ending is far from grand.
In fact, “Tiny Furniture’s” story is obviously based on Dunham’s own life.
Her on-screen mother, sister, and even some of her friends basically play themselves. Apparently, even the loft in the movie is actually where the Dunhams live.
And the lead, Aura, shares so many characteristics with Dunham that it’s hard to differentiate between the character and Dunham. Is she playing herself? Is she playing a character? Is she the character? I haven’t a clue.
But Aura’s lack of direction, as she fumbles her way through daily life, is certainly believable.
It’s a period in my life I’d like to avoid.
She’s fresh from a Midwestern liberal arts college (Dunham went to Oberlin), she has a job as a restaurant hostess and she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life.
And most of Dunham’s introspection is pretty mundane but in a good way. It’s a bit like mumblecore in that it’s a snapshot of Aura’s, and ultimately Dunham’s, life.
Aura struggles with the ambiguities of a relationship with a parasitic, YouTube-famous intellectual (Alex Karpovsky). She fights with her 17-year-old sister (Grace Dunham), she bonds with her mother (Laurie Simmons), and she has unprotected sex in a bizarre setting.
And, of course, there’s a lot of complaining and brooding over how lost she is. But it’s understandable.
She’s living with her mom, she just broke up with her college boyfriend and she has a dead-end job. And this is all after a $200,000-plus education.
So if you’re looking for an escape from the real world, don’t waste your time with “Tiny Furniture.”
It’s not that I find it easy to relate to all of the characters – I’m not a recent college graduate, and I’m not a mom. But it’s easy to care and feel empathetic towards these characters because they’re so real.
And as soon as a director has you invested, you’re hooked.
It’s a little surreal, and it’s definitely entertaining.