Tiny Furniture (Lena Dunham, 2010)

It’s probably a gross understatement to say that Lena Dunham is currently the most well-known twenty-something female on the planet right now. The ubiquitous film studies graduate turned film-maker has just released her latest feature film, Tiny Furniture, which stars not only herself in the main role, but also her real-life Mother and sister playing on-screen versions of themselves.

Dunham plays Aura, a twenty-something film studies graduate recently returned from college, to the gorgeously spacious mid-town Manhattan loft shared by her Mother and sister. Aura’s Mother is a successful photographic artist whose photo’s of miniature furniture give the film its title. Her younger sister has just won a major poetry prize, as in fact did Dunham’s sister in real-life. Aura is stuck at an awkward juncture; her care-free college days are behind her, but she is not yet ready for the impending world of work (whatever that may be) and is reluctant to let go of the safety net afforded her by the security of the family apartment.

As has been noted elsewhere, Dunham is among a new internet-savvy generation of hip, young film-makers who have developed their craft by using Youtube as an early testing ground. They could almost have taken Youtube’s “Broadcast Yourself” mantra as their manifesto; and in fact in the film, Dunham has a character who is famous (“in an internet kind of way”) for humourous observations delivered from atop a rocking horse.  This kind of self-referential, semi-autobiographical, independent cinema – out of which “scenes” such as Mumblecore emerged – often chart the lives of creative twenty-something characters who bear more than a passing resemblance to their film’s makers.

Dunham too has taken this approach but has broadened her scope to include, whether knowingly or otherwise, the politics of gender and familial relationships. Her dialogue is sharp, knowing and funny. She has a playfully cynical eye which doesn’t let anyone of the hook; not only are her male characters truly awful specimens, she also shows little camaraderie towards certain female characters, for reasons which always feel true.  Added to that, her willingness to display her own body on-screen has gotten her probably more column inches than the film’s techniques or subject matter.

There is no doubting that Dunham is certainly no slacker scenester, but rather a talent to watch. She already has one feature behind her; next to come is her HBO TV series Girls, about the experiences of a group of twenty-something female friends which she wrote, directs, produces and stars in. Sex and the City for a whole new slacker generation? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Tiny Furniture is out now.

Watch the trailer –