It would be enough to report that I’ve just seen a smart, funny independent feature, but Tiny Furniture heralds the arrival of a smart, funny new voice to the filmmaking scene—which is even better news. Writer-director Lena Dunham also stars in the film along with her mother and sister, playing, respectively, her mother (an artist who photographs miniatures) and sister (a high school student who’s just won a national poetry prize). It would be intimidating for anyone to compete, let alone coexist, with this duo.
Dunham, whose main credential prior to this was an online series called The Delusional Downtown Divas, paints a rich, tartly funny portrait of a recent college graduate named Aura who moves back to her mother’s apartment in TriBeca. It’s supposed to be temporary, but the awkward child-woman is openly torn between independence and—
—and wanting to be cradled by her mother in bed.
The real marvel of Tiny Furniture is that no one on camera seems self-conscious; the scenes play out with remarkable spontaneity and natural humor as we follow Aura’s uneasy return to her home turf in Manhattan and encounter various friends, old and new.
Dunham poses no threat to Judd Apatow: her film is modest in the extreme and highly personal, but it has a freshness and comic vigor that’s worth applauding.
Having won the Audience Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival, Tiny Furniture has already jump-started Dunham’s career. HBO has signed her to develop a comedy series, presumably in the same style as her short videos and this feature. I hope she continues to develop worthy projects—in any medium—so we can enjoy her highly individual point of view.