You might be hearing about a movie called Tiny Furniture pretty soon, or maybe you’ve already been hearing about it. In 2010 it generated pretty steady praise on the festival circuit and went wholly unnoticed for over a year after. It is no doubt a movie you might have missed, but with it already streaming on VOD services and available soon on home media, Tiny Furniture is getting the buzz going again.
Tiny Furniture follows the post-graduation lull of Aura, played by Lena Dunham, who also wrote and directed the film. Aura returns home to her family’s Tribeca loft after graduating from college in rural Ohio. Her mother is an artist, specializing in photography of the titular tiny furniture (I had no idea there was a market for that kind of thing…), and her younger sister is getting ready to graduate from high school. Aura’s return is met with seemingly lukewarm affections and likewise Aura seems to be pretty lackluster about returning to this part of her life. The movie meanders plotlessly, there’s not really a story going on onscreen. We are treated to snatches of Aura’s stagnant life and conversations between Aura and her sister, Aura and her new-old friend Charlotte, Aura and a pair of young men, either of whom could be her next romantic encounter. Tiny Furniture is a slice of life picture, focusing on just what happens to this girl after she graduates from college. And that is to say: nothing happens.
I did enjoy the film, it’s put together quite well for a Dunham’s first feature. It’s written with a caring hand, but in all respects is very…normal. Dunham’s character is excruciatingly realistic. She acts like a young 20-something with nothing to do. She acts like the majority of post-grads with very specific degrees (film theory). She fights with her family, sits around with her friends, and worries about boys. You know this girl, you might be this girl, you might become this girl. But that’s just life. Dunham’s mother, the artist Laurie Simmons, and Dunham’s younger sister play their counterparts in the movie. I’m not sure if these three women are simply playing themselves or artistic versions of themselves, or women who are nothing like their real selves. But whatever they’re playing at, they’re doing a rather good job. Here Dunham’s script is rather praiseworthy. The characters feel real, the dialog seems genuine. The movie is funny without trying to be funny. It is funny simply because it’s life, and things happen in life that will make you laugh. Indeed I found myself chuckling at very everyday occurrences throughout the length of the film.
I don’t think that Tiny Furniture will find an audience in everyone; it’s not that kind of film. But I do think that it’s possible for this movie to surprise people with its quality. It’s the kind of film that you throw on Netflix because you’ve heard about it from other people. The kind of film that you try because you heard it did well at festivals (and it did, it won SXSW’s best narrative feature). This is one of those quirky independent films that you watch and later remark that it was better than you expected. And that’s exactly how I felt when it was all said and done.