Wednesday, December 8, 2010

She's stuck in a post-collegiate limbo

Had the late Eric Rohmer been born a woman in contemporary America, he might have made a movie as self-consciously small as Tiny Furniture, a quietly engaging portrait of life in TriBeCa as lived by a recent college grad. * After returning home from college, Aura (Lena Dunham) moves in with her mom (Laurie Simmons) and her younger sister (Grace Dunham). Blood relations dominate both on and off screen: Simmons is the real mother of Lena Dunham, who also directed Tiny Furniture. Grace is her real sister. * Casual, funny and observant, Tiny Furniture may feel slight compared to more robust comedies, but its narrowness fits the sliver of life Dunham is intent on observing. Tiny Furniture is a low-consequence movie that perfectly captures a transitional moment. * The movie brings a variety of characters into Aura's narrowly defined world. It doesn't take long for Aura to hook up with a childhood friend played by the hilariously overdramatic Jemima Kirke. She also tries to establish relationships with a young You Tube sensation (David Call) and a chef (Alex Karpovsky) who works at the restaurant where Aura lands a job as a hostess. * In Tiny Furniture, Dunham distinguishes herself with intelligence and humor, not to mention a great ear for the kind of dialogue spoken by people who are well practiced in cleverness. In fact, Aura might be a prime example of a generation whose cleverness constitutes its greatest accomplishment. * Don't take that as a knock. Dunham shows little inclination to paper over the pretensions, shallowness and self-absorption of lives as yet unsullied by significant events. * True to its title, Tiny Furniture is a small curiosity, a movie made by someone who clearly knows the scene in which she skillfully immerses us. * Put another way, Tiny Furniture answers a question I hadn't really thought about before: What happens when smart people have nothing much to be smart about?

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