Written, directed by and starring Lena Dunham, and costarring her real-life mother and sister, Tiny Furniture is a loose-limbed and pleasantly idiosyncratic independent film that takes an amusing look at romantic humiliation and twentysomething dawdling, when deep-seated ambivalence is so frequently mistaken for a lack of ambition or intelligence by adults who’ve forgotten the choppy waters of post-adolescence. If Todd Solondz were 25 years younger, and had a beating heart where his contempt for humanity resides, he might make a movie like this.
The story centers on 22-year-old Aura (Dunham), who returns home to the TriBeCa loft of her artist mother (Laurie Simmons) and younger sister Siri (Grace Dunham), with a useless film theory degree and some extremely minor Internet celebrity courtesy of a handful of esoteric YouTube video uploads. Reconnecting with her somewhat scandalous best friend from childhood, Charlotte (Jemina Kirke), Aura takes a dead-end afternoon hostess job. She also strikes up off-kilter relationships with a pair of guys — Jed (Alex Karpovsky), a performance artist and would-be actor/filmmaker in town for some “meetings,” and the mustachioed chef at her workplace, Keith (David Call) — neither of whom seem to be that deeply interested in her.
Unabashedly frumpy, Dunham embraces her lumbering, unadorned physicality to play up the movie’s anti-romantic comedy streak, which hums with a quick-patter energy that rings generationally true — of a certain set speaking everything on their mind even when long-on-the-horizon plans remain frustratingly hazy. Tiny Furniture doesn’t quite completely take flight as an entirely convincing portrait of post-graduate malaise, but it’s fun, and possesses much color and character, powered by the same sort of literate yet laconic characters and banter that Noah Baumbach
has such a fine touch with. And against a backdrop of American indie film that has of late favored tone and mood over more finely honed narrative, it marks Dunham as a fresh new voice and unique multi-hyphenate. (IFC Films, R, 100 minutes)