Tiny Furniture
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Once every year or two, Hollywood produces an extraordinary success story. Some no-name filmmaker comes out of nowhere with some low-low-budget film and takes the film community by storm. This year’s award for the Little Movie That Could goes to Tiny Furniture, a quirky post-graduate dramady by writer/director/star Lena Dunham.

After graduating from college in Ohio, Aura (Dunham) returns home to New York City to stay with her artist mother, Siri (Laurie Simmons), and her overachieving little sister, Nadine (Grace Dunham). And as she reconnects with her childhood friend, Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), and explores her feelings for fellow filmmaker Jed (Alex Karpovsky) and handsome chef Keith (David Call), she struggles to figure out what to do with her life.

Tiny Furniture is certainly an impressive achievement for the little guy. While big-name directors are out there spending millions upon millions of dollars creating massive blockbusters, here’s a recent college grad who writes her own movie, casts her mom and sister to play her mom and sister, and shoots it in her family’s loft in Tribeca—all for just $50,000. She then brings it to South by Southwest, where it becomes an overnight success, leading to a limited release in theaters around the country and even a couple of award nominations. It’s a rare but wonderful success story—but that doesn’t mean that Tiny Furniture is the Oscar-worthy film that the hype might suggest.

Tiny Furniture is an honest and often insightful film, reflecting on that aimless feeling that many 20-somethings feel after graduating from college—especially now, when the struggling economy means fewer entry-level jobs for entry-level candidates. And the film’s listless pacing reflects that bleak outlook.

Still, it’s hard to feel too sorry for poor, mopey Aura, who quits her job because she’s not getting paid enough to stand around and do next to nothing—and who wanders around the family’s gorgeous loft all day sans pants, complaining about her cool and distant mother who’s all too happy to support her.

Dunham knows how to write clever dialogue—and the script has its share of subtly witty humor and sharp observations. Unfortunately, though, the story never really goes anywhere. It wanders aimlessly from one scene to another with no real destination in mind—almost like a slow, indie episode of Seinfeld. Then, finally, it makes its way to an unsatisfying conclusion.

Tiny Furniture is an interesting film. And, considering Dunham’s limited resources (like her surprisingly capable amateur cast), it’s an impressive indie achievement. But it’s not necessarily an entertaining film—nor is it a powerful film. If you can handle the leisurely pace and the purposeless plot, it’s worth a look, but you’ll have to be able to accept it for what it is: a smart but sleepy indie.

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