Pointless and amateurish, a cheap, meandering little thing called Tiny Furniture is a sad example of what happens in the new renegade cinema, where anybody can turn a hobby into a pretentious movie in their own home using a Canon 7D video cam from Best Buy and a Visa card.
The writer-director, Lena Dunham, is a recent film school graduate who also plays the lead–a zaftig, tattooed 22-year-old named Aura with a useless degree in film theory from somewhere (the film is vague about details) who comes home to Tribeca to live with her weird kid sister and neurotic, dysfunctional mother, an artist who takes photos of miniature doll furniture. They are played by Ms. Dunham’s real-life sibling and parent, neither of whom displays a shred of talent. Aura has just broken up with her boyfriend, who moved to Colorado to build a shrine to his ancestors out of a dying tree. (I couldn’t make these things up.) Ambitionless and narcissistic, she hooks up with old school chum Charlotte, who lives on her dad’s credit card and goes to expensive restaurants to “eat everything on the menu.” Charlotte gets Aura a job at a bistro called Clandestino. “You just have to look good and greet people and old guys send you drinks,” says Charlotte. “On my résumé, under skills, I put ‘Has a land line’.” Their idea of a “really hot guy” is a sous-chef who wears a fedora and is “kind of American Psycho-y looking.” According to Charlotte, “He’s got a really filthy mouth–one time I saw him sitting on a crate of onions, reading Austerlitz–so he’s really literary.” He’s also into scoring prescription Vicodin. He and Aura have sex in a shaking metal pipe in a vacant lot. Then Aura meets Jed, a broke creep who makes videos. He’s in town to sell ideas to Comedy Central, with no place to stay, so she invites him to move in while her mother is out of town. Her mother is not amused, especially when she finds a dead hamster in a plastic baggie in the freezer among the Lean Cuisines. These are people who live on YouTube, make appointments to cry together and remain basically clueless about everything–especially how to make a movie with the remotest depth, plot, character development or dramatic arc.
For dialogue, Tiny Furniture dispenses moronic revelations like “Poetry is a very stupid thing to be good at. Poems are basically like dreams–something that everybody likes to tell other people but nobody actually cares about when it’s not their own. Which is why poetry is a failure of the intellectual community.” Huh? The movie blathers on like that, with few surprises and no pace. I like to encourage young wannabes for pure guts, if nothing else. But Lena Dunham makes a 98-minute home video seem like 98 days of hard labor.
Running time 98 minutes
Written and directed by Lena Dunham
Starring Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham, Jemima Kirke