SXSW Review: TINY FURNITURE
TINY FURNITURE is a remarkably successful comedy, smart and witty, from a young and promising filmmaker. Lena Dunham wrote, directed and starred in this somewhat quirky tale of Aura, a young woman recently graduated from college. Having returned home to her often oblivious and distant mother, she finds her life takes a backseat to her mother’s art and her younger sister’s needs. Aura struggles to find her place not only at home with her family but also in the world, as she grapples with what to do with her life, post-college.
Aura’s mother Siri (Laurie Simmons) is a strange and peculiar woman, devoted to her work over her children, but isn’t fully self-aware of this flaw in her character. Aura’s sister Nadine (Grace Dunham) is a bit of a spoiled brat, hogging what little attention is to be had from their mother treating her own sister as an unwelcome intruder in their home.
For such a young filmmaker like Lena Dunham, TINY FURNITURE is an amazing first outing and promises a bright future. The visual storytelling has a slightly surreal feel to it, especially while at her mother’s home/studio… white, sterile and very modern-artsy. Dunham uses this setting as a platform for metaphorical humor, particularly the white cabinets.
The dialogue and humor in TINY FURNITURE is clever, fast-paced and points to a common theme throughout the film of cynicism about the world and life in general. Aura attains a job as a day hostess, which she grows to hate. Aura’s questionably British friend Charlotte (Jemima Kirke) pushes her to be more spontaneous, while her college pal Frankie (Merritt Wever) pulls her towards a more sensible view of the world.
Meanwhile, Aura juggles relationships with two guys, both of whom are less than ideal and have their own peculiarities. In essence, TINY FURNITURE is a film about an unpretentious young woman surrounded by pretentious people, as she attempts to discover her own path in life.
Each of these relationships helps Aura to formulate her own sense of self, one which continues to be a work in progress by the end of the film. There’s a clear element of SEINFELD that has embedded itself into the tone of TINY FURNITURE, but it’s a subtle influence, whether intentional or not.
Overall, TINY FURNITURE is a creative, fresh and funny story about a young college graduate that we all can relate to in some way, not just the New Yorkers. There’s a pleasing philosophical undercurrent that runs through Dunham’s film, which makes the audience think as they’re entertained.