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Overall Rating
2.88

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average87.5%
Pretty Bad: 12.5%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings


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Tiny Furniture
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by Jay Seaver

"Next-generation mumblecore: Better equipment, same introspection."
3 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2010: I'm often not quite sure where I land on movies like "Tiny Furniture". They spend a lot of their time annoying me, quite honestly, with their characters' awkward quirks and selfishness, and I'm never quite able to figure out whether I've just watched a filmmaker do a terrible job of presenting sympathetic characters or a note-perfect depiction of flawed human beings. And then I decide that the filmmaker's intentions don't matter; I was only mildly entertained and not particularly enriched by the experience, so that makes it a mediocre movie in my book.

We start with Aura (writer/director Lena Dunham) returning home to New York from college out in Ohio. Her mother Siri (Laurie Simmons) and sister Nadine (Grace Dunham) barely look up as she arrives, and on her first night back, she's at a party held at one friend's home where she meets her one-time best friend from high school, Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), and is introduced to Jed (Alex Karpovsky), a YouTube performer in New York to discuss projects who is soon crashing on the sofa when Nadine and Siri go visit colleges. Charlotte gets her a job as a day hostess at a nearby restaurant, where she meets handsome chef Keith (David Call).

That doesn't sound so bad, right? And it's not, except we're seeing this through Aura's eyes. The film spends a fair amount of time as portraying her as being unappreciated and crapped on, and based on what we see, that's not inaccurate. It would be a lot easier to sympathize with her, though, if she at any point made some sort of positive contribution to the world around her. She's not uniquely selfish, but in a lot of ways she's the worst of a petty lot: Nadine's a bratty teenager, so it works as sibling rivalry, and Jed is hissably dickish, but Aura? She just acts entitled and inconsiderate, and doesn't mature much over the course of the movie.

Maybe that's what Dunham is going for, and if it is, she does well as an actress. It's not a completely one-note performance; she does well at making Aura seeming to feel adrift in her post-college life, clearly intelligent but without a lot of experience in actually applying her smarts. Her scenes with Karpovsky and Call are nice displays of tentative attraction and shyness. And while one might consider casting one's real-life mother and sister in those roles to be cheating, it's a choice that works; the bickering between sisters and complicated relationship between mother and daughter are note-perfect.

Bits of the movie work well; the parts where Aura is trying to make a good impression on Jed and he is just shamelessly taking advantage of her have a mean streak that makes for an amusing segment, for instance. The interactions between people seem real and familiar, even if Aura and company do live in a world of multimedia artists in Tribeca that's more eccentric than most of the audience's experience. The movie is a bit limited by its medium - during the festival Q&A, a big topic of discussion was how Tiny Furniture was mostly shot on what is basically a high-end consumer camera (you can get a Canon Eos 7 in a big-box electronics store), which doesn't capture motion very well. The film has a very static feel; even scenes with two people talking sometimes seem unnaturally still.

"Tiny Furniture" is probably a more accurate picture of post-college malaise than I care to remember, and well-done for that, but even if that's the case, it still tried my patience. For someone as young as Dunham, it's good work, but it only fitfully manages to present itself as a story worth telling.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20263&reviewer=371
originally posted: 05/12/10 14:37:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Traverse City Film Festival For more in the 2010 Traverse City Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/14/10 Dorothy Rozdilsky characters were annoying 2 stars
11/12/10 PAUL SHORTT AMUSING, ENDEARING COMEDY 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  12-Nov-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  12-Nov-2010


Directed by
  Lena Dunham

Written by
  Lena Dunham

Cast
  Lena Dunham
  Laurie Simmons
  Grace Dunham
  David Call
  Alex Karpovsky



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