Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tiny Furniture REVIEW

Recently, I watched Tiny Furniture, which The Criterion Collection just released on DVD and Blu-Ray. Written and directed by Lena Dunham, Tiny Furniture is about a young college graduate named Aura (Dunham) who’s going through that “What do I want to do with my life” phase many young people experience after college. Dunham’s real-life mother and sister (Laurie Simmons and Grace Dunham) appear as Aura’s mother and sister, inflecting the movie with a sense of authenticity and earnestness it might have lacked otherwise. Then there are the two men she divides her time with--Jed (Alex Karpovsky), a young YouTube “star” hoping to get his own show with Comedy Central, and Keith (David Call), an attractive but slightly slimy sous-chef she meets at the restaurant where she briefly works.

Tiny Furniture reminds me a lot of Noah Baumbach’s solo work, except that Dunham never pushes her movie's tone as far as Baumbach does. In other words, her characters never feel as quirky or snarky as Baumbach’s sometimes do, which I consider a good thing. Baumbach’s characters typically make me squirm, and not in a good way. Instead of leaning in to learn more about them, I typically want to get as far away from them as possible. (If I like anything Baumbach’s had his hands on, it’s because Wes Anderson’s been there to bring a lighter, more earnest touch, as in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Fantastic Mr. Fox.)

Dunham’s characters, by comparison, feel authentic and relatable, even if they’re privileged in a way I’m not. Aura wants to form an identity separate from her family’s, something we all have to do eventually, regardless of wealth. If she complains about her first world problems, they are at least first world problems that go beyond the borders of class, which puts Tiny Furniture leaps and bounds ahead of a trivial movie like Baumbach’s Greenberg.

Feel differently about Tiny Furniture or Noah Baumbach? By all means, share your comments below.

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