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Short Takes: Tiny Furniture

By Chris Chang

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(Lena Dunham, U.S., 2010)

Tiny Furniture

It’s a family affair: the (now) 24-year-old director Lena Dunham, her mother, and her younger sister play versions of themselves, and the primary location is the upscale Tribeca loft where they all actually live. The elements add up to an interpersonal chamber-piece that succeeds as well as it does thanks to the unabashed intimacy it has with its own diminutive subject matter. Call it a mumblecore mumblepiece.

The action begins when Aura (Dunham) returns from college with a degree in film theory and the existential lack of self-worth that a diploma of that type confers. Her mother (Laurie Simmons), a successful artist whose work involves photographing the miniature items to which the film owes its name, is a rock of emotional support and liberal open-mindedness. You get the sense that Aura could hide in her room for the rest of her life without anyone bothering to check in on her.

Aura finds an unrewarding job, meets two distinct examples of superficial boy-men, and has numerous conversations with anyone within range about what it means to be a young, not-exactly-beautiful adult entering an often cruel world. The emphasis on conceptual “tininess” and the fragility of feelings makes for a surprising surfeit of comedy. Dunham, also in recovery from post-graduation syndrome, is doing well, and currently in negotiations with Judd Apatow and Scott Rudin.

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